We all know oil is a main ingredient behind running America- each day this month the United States will consume roughly 790 million gallons of oil products. At our peak back in August 2005, we consumed nearly 840 million gallons per day of oil products. With oil being the major component of every gallon, it's safe to say we require a lot of oil to feed our needs.
The U.S. produces oil as well as receiving it from oil producing countries, but only 25% of our need is fulfilled by oil produced in the fifty states. The remaining 75% of oil is imported from other countries, often shipped via crude carriers that have enormous hulls. Two classes of ships are too large to unload at many traditional ports- VLCCs and ULCCs (Very Large Crude Carrier and Ultra Large Crude Carrier). That's where the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, also known as LOOP, comes in. LOOP is a port facility located in the Gulf of Mexico- that's right- in the middle of the Gulf (well, almost)! According to LOOP's website, the port is eighteen miles south of Grand Isle, LA in approximately 110 feet of water. LOOP also states that it is the only port in the United States that can offload VLCCs and ULCCs.
LOOP is an important part of the oil infrastructure, because without it, there would be no way we could fulfill our need for imported oil. If you notice, the location of LOOP is also a concern come hurricane season. LOOP has closed several times, but has large storage facilities so that in the case of disruption, impact is not as significant as could be.
Tankers from all over the Middle East head for LOOP on a daily basis, preparing to unload their huge quantities of oil. VLCC and ULCC carriers can hold 84 million gallons of oil (2 million barrels), so having just one port that can offload them is significant. It is important to note that LOOP also offloads smaller loads in addition to the largest carriers.
Once a VLCC or ULCC is ready to enter U.S. waters, preparations are made for docking at LOOP. According to LOOP's website, the port consists of three mooring buoys used for the offloading of crude and a marine terminal consisting of a two-level pumping platform and a three-level control platform. LOOP's onshore storage facility, 25 miles inland, is connected to the port by a massive 48" diameter pipeline. This storage facility allows for holding oil before it is delivered via pipelines to refineries all over the United States. The storage facility at LOOP boasts capacity of nearly 210 million gallons of crude oil (50 million barrels).
Once safely docked at the floating platform, oil is offloaded via pipeline that sits on the bottom of the Gulf, flowing to LOOP's onshore facilities. Once the oil is in storage, it remains there until shipped via pipeline to a refinery. LOOP is connected to over half of U.S. refineries, capable of sending the crude offloaded as far as the Midwest.
LOOP claims that since it opened, it has offloaded over 7 billion barrels of foreign crude oil- amazing to think that we've consumed that much. Wow!