Crude oil prices rose today as storms closed in on the Gulf of Mexico, shutting more than half its oil production, and on signs of progress in development of a Covid-19 treatment. 

Brent crude was up 33 cents, or 0.7%, at $44.68 a barrel while US West Texas Intermediate crude rose 32 cents, or 0.8%, to $42.66. 

Energy companies shut more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of offshore crude oil production in the US Gulf of Mexico because of the twin threat from Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura.

Workers have been evacuated from more than 100 production platforms. 

"While there is a focus on oil production at the moment, we will need to keep an eye on refining activity, which is vulnerable to flooding. The US Gulf is a key refining hub," said Warren Patterson, ING's head of commodities strategy.

Also supporting prices was a report by the Financial Times that US President Donald Trump is considering fast-tracking an experimental Covid-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. 

Trump also hailed FDA authorisation of a coronavirus treatment that uses blood plasma from recovered patients, a day after he accused the agency of impeding the rollout of vaccines and therapeutics for political reasons. 

Oil price gains were kept in check, however, by an increase in the US oil and natural rig count for the first time since March, with the addition of the most oil rigs in seven months as shale producers resume drilling.