Oil and gas operators continued to report mostly minor damage as a result of Hurricane Isaac, and production in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) was slowly returning to normal Thursday, the Bureau of Safety Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said.

Based on data from offshore operator reports submitted as of 11:30 a.m. CDT Thursday, BSEE estimated that about 21.28% (957.81 MMcf/d) of current daily natural gas production, and 42.98% (593,090 b/d) of daily oil output in the GOM was shut in. Both numbers are down from Wednesday, when the BSEE said 25.71% (1.157 Bcf/d) of natural gas production and 49.33% (680,749 b/d) of oil output was shut in.

Workers returned to eight more manned production platforms since Wednesday, according to BSEE, which said personnel remained evacuated Thursday from 10 of the 596 manned production platforms, equivalent to 1.68% of the total platforms in the GOM. Personnel also remained evacuated from one of the 76 rigs in the GOM, BSEE said. Those numbers peaked last Thursday (Aug. 30) at 509 production platforms and 50 rigs evacuated; 18 platforms remained evacuated on Wednesday.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC, which reported Wednesday morning it had found damage on one of its platforms (see Daily GPI, Sept. 6), on Thursday said a force majeure event remained in effect for the Bay Marchand 5 Central Gathering System. Four meters associated with Bay Marchand remain shut in, but all other meters that had been shut in due to Isaac are ready to resume flow, Tennessee said.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Thursday that low pressure centered about 75 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River had a 40% chance of becoming a tropical cyclone by this weekend, but because shower activity associated with the low remained poorly organized, an Air Force reconnaissance mission had been postponed until Friday. "There is still potential for some development during the next day or so before environmental conditions become unfavorable," NHC said.

NHC was also tracking the slow-moving Hurricane Leslie, which was inching toward Bermuda at 2 mph with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. Michael, which became the first major hurricane of the 2012 season Thursday morning, was about 980 miles west-southwest of the Azores and was moving to the northeast at 7 mph on a track that was expected to keep it in the central and north-central Atlantic Ocean. Michael was a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph, NHC said.

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