WASHINGTON - While petrochemical companies are breathing a sigh of relief that the on-shore impacts of Hurricane Rita weren't as bad as they had feared, the full impact of the hurricane on U.S. energy production remains unclear.

In terms of refineries, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE) reports that 21 Texas refineries were shut down during the storm, and although most are now coming back on-line, at least one - a Port Arthur, Texas, refinery owned by Valero Corp. - is reporting significant damage and does not expect to be back on-line for two weeks to a month. Valero does not expect power to be restored for about a month in Port Arthur, the location of two other refineries.

Another concern is oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. Of particular concern is the Green Canyon area, about 165 miles south-southwest of New Orleans, where many large offshore oil platforms are located. Hurricane Rita was still a strong category 4 hurricane when it passed by Green Canyon. Chevron Corp. reports that one of its platforms was severed from its moorings and suffered severe damage in the storm. Likewise, Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. reports that two of its Green Canyon platforms broke free of their moorings and were blown aground roughly 100 miles from their original locations. But on the plus side, BP, owner of two of the largest oil platforms in the area, says its oil facilities incurred no major damage.

Publication date: 10/03/2005