Oil companies returning to offshore sites in gulf

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Oil companies have begun returning workers to drilling rigs and production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Offshore sites in the gulf were abandoned as the storm that became Hurricane Isaac approached. As of Friday, more than 94 percent of the daily oil production in the Gulf had been shut in. But production is expected to ramp up soon. Companies began redeploying workers Friday and updated production figures are expected Saturday afternoon.

BP said an initial aerial inspection showed no significant damage to offshore facilities. Crews Saturday are taking a closer look as those facilities are repopulated.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says that, when Isaac was approaching, 499 of 596 oil and gas production platforms were evacuated, as were 48 of 76 rigs that were drilling for oil or gas in the Gulf.

A surge in gasoline prices accompanied Isaac, although the dramatic increases came to an end Friday as the storm moved farther inland. The national average price for gasoline inched up just 0.3 cents Friday to $3.83 per gallon.

Pump prices for gasoline were on the rise even before Isaac arrived. The average gasoline price rose about 40 cents from July 1 to mid-August because of refinery problems in the Midwest and West Coast, and sharply higher crude oil prices.

Crude has traded between $94 and $97 per barrel for two weeks, after rising from a low near $77 in late June.

On Friday U.S benchmark crude rose $1.85 to end at $96.47 per barrel after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made clear in a speech that the central bank will do more to revive the U.S. economy.

Brent Crude, which is used to price oil used by many U.S. refiners, rose $1.92 to $114.57 per barrel.

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