Louisiana Offshore Oil Port is becoming a major world oil trading hub, with record U.S. oil production transforming the nation’s only deep-water offshore oil port from its previous role as strictly an importer to a major source of exports.
LOOP, which is about 20 miles south of Port Fourchon in 110 feet of water, has more than doubled the number of huge oil tankers that have loaded crude for export in the first six months of the year, and the trend will continue apace as U.S. production grows and new infrastructure comes online, LOOP President Terry Coleman said.
Until three years ago, LOOP took in about 300 vessels a year, offloading crude oil from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Venezuela and other sources, then piping it through its vast pipeline network to storage caverns onshore or up to refineries in the Baton Rouge corridor and further inland.
Now, said Coleman, LOOP is handling less import volume but is almost always sending away those ships full of U.S. crude for export markets, like China, India and Europe. He estimates that about 40% of vessels now leave full of U.S. crude for export markets.
The major forces behind the surge of exports were the lifting of a 40-year ban on crude exports at the end of 2015 and the continued turnaround in U.S. crude production.
Aided by new technology, which has opened up vast new oil reserves in places like the Permian Basin in Texas, U.S. oil production reversed a 40-year decline from a peak 10 million barrels of oil per day in the 1970s to below 5 million bpd in 2010, that has rebounded to a new record of 12.4 million bpd at the end of May.
The Energy Information Agency in Washington reported earlier this month that U.S. crude imports into Gulf Coast refiners had hit their lowest level since 1986, at 1.8 million barrels per day.
“As U.S. imports have come down, that has created more space for us to export,” Coleman said.
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