HOUSTON - Oil production in the US Gulf of Mexico ground to a near halt and coastal refineries and ports curtailed operations on Tuesday as Tropical Storm Isaac neared hurricane strength en route to Louisiana.
With much of the region's oil production shut in, refineries closed or at reduced rates, and key import terminals shuttered, oil traders geared up for supply disruptions.
Some energy experts said Isaac could make it more likely for the US government to release oil supplies from its 727 million barrel Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the coming weeks.
"I think the probability (of an SPR release) has gone up significantly," said Ed Morse, global head of commodity research at Citigroup in New York.
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