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UPDATE 1-Hurricane Laura shuts two sites at U.S. emergency oil reserve

(Adds details about storm’s impact)

WASHINGTON, Aug 27 (Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Department said on Thursday it had shut two of four sites of the national emergency oil reserve temporarily to remove workers ahead of Hurricane Laura, but that the remaining sites could deliver oil if the facility gets any requests for deliveries.

The department on Wednesday shut the Strategic Petroleum Reserve’s Big Hill site in Texas and the West Hackberry site in Louisiana due to Laura, Steve Winberg, an assistant secretary at the department, told reporters in a call.

He said the department had a reentry team on its way to Big Hill and it should know the condition of the facility in a few hours.

West Hackberry was “more in the eye of the storm,” Winberg said. The department has reentry teams ready to go to that site but roads in the area are not yet passable. “As soon as we can get through the roads and get across the bridges then we’ll be assessing that facility.”

The two sites were shut because the department needed to evacuate the operations teams, a department official told Reuters. “This was a planned evacuation that took place yesterday prior to the storm reaching the site.”

The other two SPR sites, Bryan Mound, in Texas, and Bayou Choctaw, in Louisiana, are open and can deliver oil should the department receive requests from refiners, Winberg said.

There have been no requests so far for oil from the reserve and fuel supplies are high in the region due to the hit in demand from the coronavirus pandemic.

Laura has since been downgraded to a tropical storm. U.S. oil prices eased nearly 1% to $43.04 a barrel on Thursday as the market expected a quick recovery for crude production platforms shuttered ahead of the storm. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Daniel Wallis)

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