Offshore oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), which had been slammed by shut-ins and personnel evacuations as Tropical Storm Debby loomed last weekend, is nearly back to normal, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Approximately 3.21% of daily oil output and 3.64% of daily natural gas output in the GOM remained shut-in at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, BSEE said. That was down from a peak on Monday of 44.1% and 34.8%, respectively.

Personnel from 10 production platforms, or 1.6% of the 596 manned platforms in the GOM, remained evacuated, according to BSEE, which oversees oil and gas activity in the Gulf. None of the 70 rigs operating in the GOM remained evacuated. On Monday 189 platforms and 22 rigs had been evacuated.

Debby, the fourth named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, formed near the Yucatan Peninsula at the end of last week, forcing offshore GOM oil and gas operators to evacuate workers from platforms and shut in production on Saturday. But GOM oil and natural gas interests were left unscathed by Debby. By Monday afternoon the storm was hovering near the Florida coast and major GOM leaseholders were redeploying their workers (see Daily GPI, June 26).

Debby dumped torrential rains on parts of Florida, but by Wednesday morning it had been downgraded to a tropical depression and was moving away from Florida's east coast. Debby was located about 90 miles east of St. Augustine, FL, at 11 a.m. Wednesday with sustained winds of 35 mph and no watches or warnings remaining in effect, according to the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Progress Energy said Wednesday it had restored power to more than 98% of the 281,000 customers, most of them in Florida's Pasco County and St. George Island, who were affected by the storm.

NHC on Wednesday was tracking a new tropical wave located about 1,600 miles east of the southern Windward Islands. The wave, which was moving west at 10-15 mph, had only a 10% change of become a tropical cyclone this week, NHC said.

The consensus forecast this year has been for a relatively mild hurricane season, but the emergence of Tropical Storm Debby, the unusually early start of the hurricane season and an increase in North Atlantic water temperatures have prompted one forecaster to increase the number of tropical storms in its forecast (see Daily GPI, June 27).

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