Louisiana Port Wary of Next Hurricane

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
The only road in and out of Port Fourchon, Louisiana, the main U.S. staging point for deepwater oil and natural-gas production, sits just 2 to 3 feet (61 to 91 centimeters) above the marshland. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita largely spared the road, Louisiana Highway 1, because neither struck Fourchon directly. According to Bloomberg, officials are worried that the upcoming hurricane season, beginning June 1, might play out differently. A storm might wipe out the highway as Katrina wrecked parts of the Gulf Coast last year, hindering access to Gulf of Mexico production platforms and cutting off a port where 11 percent of U.S. oil imports come ashore. Raising and widening a 17-mile (27-kilometer) stretch of Highway 1 would prevent an extended shutdown. The work would also cost more than $1 billion. The port on March 24 broke ground on a $161 million bridge-replacement project that will take almost four years to finish, and the funding needed for the road improvements isn't available. Fourchon is the destination for 1.2 million barrels a day of oil imports sent to the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, or LOOP, terminal. Another 400,000 barrels a day of domestic production comes ashore at the port. About 130 companies located in Fourchon handle 75 percent of the service work for deepwater oil and gas producers in the Gulf, the largest U.S. source of crude. According to port officials, the port is indispensable because of its location. Fourchon is one of only two oil ports that can accommodate vessels plying the deepest waters. (Source: Bloomberg)

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