HOUSTON (Reuters) – A strengthening Hurricane Delta dealt the greatest blow to U.S. offshore Gulf of Mexico production in 15 years, halting most of the region’s oil and nearly two-thirds of its natural gas output.

An already large and powerful storm, Delta could intensify further on Friday as it churns through the Gulf’s prime oil-producing area. Its winds reached 120 miles per hour (195 kmh), according to the National Hurricane Center.

Delta has shut 1.67 million barrels per day, or 92% of the Gulf’s oil output, the most since 2005 when Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than 100 offshore platforms and hobbled output for months.

Oil prices eased in early trading in Asia on Friday, but were on track for gains of about 10% for the week, boosted by outages in the Gulf of Mexico and a labor dispute in the North Sea. The two combined have removed 3.17 million barrels per day from the market.

Workers had evacuated 279 offshore Gulf of Mexico facilities and producers moved 15 drilling rigs away from Delta’s large and strong windfield. Tropical force winds stretched up to 160 miles from its center, the NHC said, a sign of its large size.

Delta will decrease as it approaches the coast but is expected to remain a Category 3 storm on the 5-step Saffir-Simpson scale. It will bring a 4- to 11-foot (1.2-3.3 meters) storm surge to the coast near landfall, the NHC said.

In addition to oil, producers have halted nearly 62% of the region’s natural gas output, or 1.675 billion cubic feet per day. Offshore Gulf of Mexico fields produce about 15% of U.S. crude oil and 5% of its natural gas production.

Total SA on Thursday began shutting an oil processing unit at its 225,500 barrel-per-day (bpd) Port Arthur, Texas, refinery because of

Greene King called on the government to provide support to prevent further pub closures and job losses. Photo: PA
Greene King called on the government to provide support to prevent further pub closures and job losses. Photo: PA

Pub company Greene King has announced plans to axe around 800 jobs and shut 79 of its pubs after business declined due to the introduction of 10pm hospitality curfew.

A spokeswoman for Greene King said: “The continued tightening of the trading restrictions for pubs, which may last another six months, along with the changes to government support was always going to make it a challenge to reopen some of our pubs.

“Therefore, we have made the difficult decision not to reopen 79 sites, including the 11 Loch Fyne restaurants we announced last week.

“Around one-third will be closed permanently and we hope to be able to reopen the others in the future.”

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The UK’s largest pub retailer and brewer runs about 1,700 managed pubs and 1,000 tenanted venues across the UK. The company said they are “working hard with our teams to try and find them a role in another of our pubs wherever possible.”

Greene King called on the government to “step in and provide tailored support to help the sector get through to the spring and prevent further pub closures and job losses.”

UK prime minister Boris Johnson faced a barrage of warnings over the threat to firms and jobs after he unveiled fresh COVID-19 measures for England including a 10pm shutdown for hospitality venues.

UK pub owners expressed their anger with the government, as more than 1,000 publicans signed an open letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak pleading for more support and urging the government to rethink the 10pm curfew.

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In the letter organised