Oil flat as restarts begin

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    HOUSTON- Energy companies continued efforts to restore operations at US Gulf Coast offshore platforms and refineries shut by Hurricane Laura as oil markets largely shrugged off the storm’s impact.

    Some 300 offshore production facilities and half-dozen refineries were halted ahead of a Category 4 storm that hit the coast of Louisiana with winds of 150 mile per hour (240 kph).

    The destructive winds cut a narrow path through the area.

    Citgo Petroleum said its 418,000-barrel per day Lake Charles, Louisiana, plant sustained wind damage that will take days to assess, preventing an immediate restart.

    Sources familiar with operations at the Lake Charles refinery said the hurricane caused extensive damage which would require four to six weeks to repair.

    Motiva Enterprises, operator of the largest US refinery, and Valero Energy Corp began restarting their Port Arthur, Texas, refineries.

    US crude futures traded at $42.97 per barrel, down 3 cents and up slightly from $42.34 a week ago. US gasoline futures were up about 3 cents, 2 percent higher than a week ago.

    About 84 percent, or 1.56 million barrels per day, of US Gulf of Mexico crude output and 60 percent of natural gas offshore production were shut on Friday. Crews have returned to 42 platforms, US Department of Interior data showed.

    Exxon Mobil Corp said its 369,024 bpd Beaumont, Texas, refinery, about 50 miles (80 km) west of the storm’s landfall, required “minor repairs,” a spokesman said. The company was taking steps to restart once power and port operations were restored.