The Great Beyond – Crude Export Opportunities Beckon at LOOP

The recent end to U.S. crude export prohibitions opens up a number of coastal infrastructure development opportunities. One of the best placed assets is Louisiana’s Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) – the largest U.S. waterborne crude receipt terminal. LOOP could become a Gulf Coast crude blending and trading hub if its infrastructure is upgraded to facilitate exports. Today we look at the existing LOOP operation and future opportunities for exports.

We detailed the LOOP terminal in a blog series back in 2012 (see Thrown For A LOOP). The “port” actually consists of a fairly extensive collection of crude handling assets including pipelines connecting multiple sources of incoming crude to a huge central operations facility in Clovelly, LA that can store, blend and redistribute to refineries in the Louisiana and Mississippi region as well as the Midwest. The map in Figure #1 shows some of the main pipeline assets. The offshore terminal consists of three mooring buoys located 18 miles off the coast of Fourchon, LA in 110 feet of water.

These buoys can accommodate “very large” and “ultra large” crude carriers (VLCCs and ULCCs) that hold between one million and three million barrels of oil each (1 MMBbl and 3 MMBbl). Tankers are offloaded via an underground pipeline connected to an offshore marine terminal that looks like an oil-drilling platform. Oil is pumped from the Marine terminal (tanker icon on the map) at up to 100 Mb/hour via the LOCAP pipeline to a massive storage facility at Clovelly, twenty-five miles inland. Clovelly has 8 underground salt dome caverns capable of storing 58 MMBbl of crude as well as an above ground tank farm with a further 10MMBbl capacity. Historically the LOOP offshore terminal (in operation since 1982) was a crude import facility – built to handle supertankers - but since 2012 the port has also unloaded smaller cargoes of domestic crude delivered from Corpus Christi in South Texas via U.S. flag 300 MBbl “Jones Act” tankers (see The Sea And Mr. Jones for more on the Jones Act). Clovelly is also the pipeline destination for as much as 0.5 MMb/d of offshore Gulf of Mexico (GOM) crude production – primarily from the Shell operated Mars pipeline system (red lines on the map in Figure #1) and BP’s Thunder Horse field (via the Endymion pipeline system not shown on the map). Since 2013 Clovelly has also been a destination point for the Shell Zydeco (formerly Ho-Ho) pipeline that delivers up to 350 Mb/d of crude from terminals in Houston, Port Arthur/Beaumont, and Lake Charles, LA (light green line on the map). 

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