LOOP moves industry forward

For more than three decades, a large portion of the lifeblood of America has passed right through our back yard.

Believe it or not, more than 11 billion barrels of crude oil has passed through the Bayou Region.

That is, after it makes a pit stop in southern Lafourche Parish at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, better known as LOOP. It is the largest point of entry for waterborne crude oil coming into the U.S.

LOOP’s Clovelly Hub is capable of storing more than 70 million barrels of crude oil, and it is the largest privately-owned and operated crude oil repository in the nation.

Crude oil enters the hub via four pipelines. One comes from the LOOP Marine Terminal, a structure located 23 miles from shore which allows ultra large crude tankers and very large crude tankers to send crude oil to LOOP without even entering the continental shelf. That makes LOOP the only port in America capable of accepting oil from tankers of those sizes.

“Supertankers cannot navigate the continental shelf that borders the U.S. coastline,” LOOP Vice President of Business Development Terry Coleman explained. “The continental shelf makes it impossible to bring deep draft vessels into a land port. ultra large crude carriers and very large crude carriers draw upwards of 80 to 90 feet of water.”

Two of the other three pipelines come from deepwater Gulf of Mexico, and one comes from Texas, according Coleman.

“The crude oil is stored in underground caverns and above ground storage tanks at LOOP’s Clovelly Hub,” Coleman said.

There are eight of those underground caverns, leached out of a naturally occurring salt dome. The six above-ground structures can hold 600,000 barrels each.

“It is then delivered to refiners via additional pipelines,” Coleman said.

The outgoing pipelines connect LOOP directly to 10 states and to more than 50 percent of the nation’s refining capacity.

At full refining capacity, LOOP ships more than 1.1 million barrels of oil per day to refineries in southeast Louisiana such as Chalmette Refining, Motiva Norco, Phillips 66 Alliance, Shell St. Rose, Valero Meraux and Valero St. Charles. Complex refineries such as ExxonMobil Baton Rouge, Marathon Garyville and Mativa Covenant also have access to LOOP’s crude oil.

Additionally, when customers request oil, LOOP can deliver crude oil supplies quickly and accurately via its various pipelines that can reach as far north as Minnesota.

“At LOOP, it really is all about the customer,” Coleman said. “The refiner calls when they need it, and it is piped to them on demand.”

With the shale boom in the United States, LOOP is also positioning itself to become the biggest outgoing hub for oil exports. In October 2013, Shell Oil Company completed the reversal of the Houma-to-Houston pipeline, making it flow eastward from Houston to Houma.

Apart from the seemingly endless amount of oil LOOP handles on a daily basis, it may be its track record of safe receivables and deliveries that it is most proud of. Since beginning operations in 1981, LOOP boasts no major oil spills.

“I believe LOOP’s aggressive maintenance program and the conscientious commitment of the staff are the key to operational safety and reliability,” Coleman explained. “LOOP maintains an emphasis on prevention in its operations – prevention of safety and environmental incidents. Because of our commitment to protecting the environment, the communities in which we operate, and both contract personnel and employees, we strive in all aspects of our business to spill no oil and insure that no one is injured. This commitment extends beyond our operations to programs that help educate the public and other operators on how to avoid or prevent damage to pipeline systems.”

In the case of a spill, LOOP has an extensive emergency response plan in place and is prepared to respond with an on-site team along with experienced consultants and contractors.

But there has never been a large spill. In a statement LOOP President Thomas L. Shaw made before the Quadrennial Energy Review in 2014, LOOP has safely transported “ 99.999999% of the crude oil it has moved since inception.”

Shaw said an environmental impact study done before construction on the facility began predicted LOOP would spill five barrels of crude oil for every million they received. At that rate, they would spill five barrels of oil per day into the broken marsh of South Lafourche Parish, but by the middle of 2014, LOOP had only spilled three-quarters of a barrel.

Why? Because they’re Louisianans too.

“Our entire support staff is located here in Louisiana. We are proud of each member of our staff and their involved in the community,” Coleman said. “ … All of our people actually live and work in the community. From our outreach pieces, we’re a huge supporter of the United Way both in Lafourche and Terrebonne as well as up in St. Tammany in the greater New Orleans area.”

Coleman added LOOP never has to go very far looking for good ideas and technical expertise.

“We think we have the best people in our industry right here in our state,” he said. •