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Thrown for a LOOP – Crude Imports and the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port Terminal – Part II

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) is currently the nation’s largest waterborne crude import terminal. Throughput at LOOP has been declining as domestic crude production has increased. Crude oil imports were over 1 MMb/d in 2008 but dropped to 0.5 MMb/d by September 2012. Light sweet crude imports in September 2012 were 10 percent of their level in 2008. Today we look at future prospects for this huge marine terminal and storage facility on the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

This blog series is about how crude oil terminals in the Gulf Coast region are adapting to the changing supply position. The first four episodes covered terminals in the Houston area (see ECHO, Nederland, Oiltanking and Magellan). The fifth episode in the series was the first in a two-part look at LOOP that described how the Louisiana Gulf Coast terminal operates today. If you haven’t read that episode yet (go to Thrown for a LOOP-Part-1) then today’s blog may be hard to follow.

Last time we described how LOOP is the largest US waterborne crude import terminal that can handle 1.2 MMb/d coming ashore from very large crude carrier (VLCC) oil tankers. LOOP also handles 0.5 MMb/d of Gulf of Mexico (GOM) crude production from the Mars and Thunder Horse fields. The Clovelly onshore terminal has 50 MMBbl of underground salt dome storage and 7.2 MMBbl of above ground tanks. LOOP is connected by pipeline to 50 percent of the nation’s refineries and offers crude importers a range of terminal services aside from storage including blending, title transfers and pipeline distribution scheduling.

The volume of imports passing through LOOP is declining. We assembled data for the chart below from Energy Information Administration (EIA) company level import reports. The blue line is monthly crude imports through LOOP averaged to a daily Mb/d number. The red line shows the trend. Overall import volumes have dropped from close to the LOOP maximum capacity of 1.2 MMb/d in August 2008 to as low as 340 Mb/d in July 2012. The EIA data is prone to inaccuracies because it depends on customs data that does not include crude that stays in the LOOP free trade zone. However, the declining trend is clear.

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