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Plains Trains and Diluent Deals – Crude and Condensate at St. James, LA

When Plains All American began building out their terminal at St. James in 2004 the business model was based on crude imports flowing through LOOP. That had to change gears along with the market.  Since then they have developed a successful business transporting condensate to Western Canada – that is now being supplied from the Eagle Ford basin. Plains also built a crude rail unloading facility at St. James before crude by rail hit the headlines. Today we describe how Plains successfully leveraged their St. James terminal assets.

So far in this blog series we have described how six crude oil terminals are adapting to a changing supply position in the Gulf Coast region caused by increased domestic US and Canadian production. The first four episodes covered terminals in the Houston area (see ECHO, Nederland, Oiltanking and Magellan). Episodes five and six focused on the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (see Thrown For A Loop Part 1 and Part 2). The latest episode was the first of two on the St. James, LA crude terminal – describing NuStar’s adaptation of storage there to facilitate crude by rail traffic from North Dakota (see Back to the Delta).

This time we turn our attention to Nustar’s largest rival at St. James – Plains All American Pipeline L.P. (PAA). Plains is one of the largest midstream crude oil players in the US. The company owns and operates 18,000 miles of crude and refined product pipelines. They own 120 MMBbl of crude, product and natural gas liquid (NGL) storage and terminal facilities. PAA owns gathering systems that handle over 800 Mb/d of US and Canadian crude. The company’s crude oil handling business (gathering, transportation and storage) is their largest business unit but they also have significant NGL and natural gas storage businesses. We focus our attention in this blog on PAA’s crude terminal at St. James, LA.

Note: If you did not read our NuStar blog Back to the Delta, then it is worth looking at it first to get an idea of how strategically located St. James is and to understand the crude oil pipeline connections in and out of this crude trading hub. You should at least look at the map in that blog to familiarize yourself with the logistics around St. James.

PAA began planning their St. James crude oil terminal in 2003. Between 2003 and 2007 they constructed an initial 3.5 MMbbl of crude storage followed by an additional 2.7 MMBbl started in 2008. During 2009 PAA added a Mississippi River dock that could accommodate two barges and one Suez Max tanker (see picture below) as well as 900 MBbl of condensate storage ( 3 X 300 MBbl tanks). During 2010 PAA built a rail receipt terminal with 65 Mb/d capacity. The rail receipt terminal was  expanded to 140 Mb/d during 2011. During 2012 PAA completed a further 1.2 MMBbl  liquids storage expansion for a total of 8.1 MMBbl.

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