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Port Fourchon, LOOP enter recovery mode after sustaining damages, timeline unclear

Highlights

Clearing road debris is top priority

LOOP damage assessments ongoing

Port taking phased-in approach for tenant reentry

Port Fourchon and the associated Louisiana Offshore Oil Port entered into a recovery mode Aug. 31 after sustaining damages from Hurricane Ida and a timeline for restoring operations remains unclear, but there is optimism that most of the facilities "stood up well" to the major Category 4 hurricane, said a spokesperson for the Greater Lafourche Port Commission.

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The statuses of Port Fourchon and LOOP will play key roles in both the resumption of offshore oil and gas production and of crude oil exports because of their key roles in maritime traffic. The port is a hub of supplies and equipment, and a transportation point of entry and exit to and from the Gulf, while LOOP is the nation's only deepwater terminal capable of offloading VLCCs.

Ida aimed directly at Port Fourchon when it made its Louisiana landfall Aug. 29 as one of the strongest storms to ever hit the US Gulf Coast.

"While damaged, we are hopeful in the fact that a lot of key infrastructure remains and looks to have stood up well to the onslaught of this historic hurricane," said port commission spokesperson Thad Angelloz in an emailed statement.

"Obviously, removing obstructions and sunken vessels in the waterways that flow in out of the port is key to bringing offshore transportation back on line," he added. "However, providing the necessary waterway access in and out of the port can hopefully be achieved with certain restrictions in the nearer term with fuller access maybe taking a bit longer."

LOOP's onshore facilities are at Port Fourchon, while the marine terminal is about 18 nautical miles offshore.

About 95% of US Gulf oil and gas production was shut in ahead of Ida, as well as more than 2 million b/d of onshore crude oil refining capacity. More than 1 million electricity customers remained without power on Aug. 31, including nearly all of the New Orleans area.

Angelloz said port teams have completed initial visual assessments of the damage, including aerially, and currently are focused on clearing debris from roadways to ensure safe travel.

"Giving a timeframe on power restoration and a timeframe on how long certain tenants and users will need to repair facilities is challenging," he said. "I will say that the essential team members that work for the myriad of businesses that work out of the port are anxious to get in there, access things and get to back to work."

The port commission is working closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coast Survey office, the US Coast Guard, electricity provider Entergy, the local water district and other partners to safely open the port back up to commerce, he said.

An additional statement Aug. 31 from LOOP said that facility assessments are still being conducted.

The port commission said the Ted Gisclair Floodgate in Larose and the Leon Theriot Lock in Golden Meadow remain closed to all marine traffic.

The main Louisiana Highway 1 access point into the area also was closed Aug. 31 from debris and high water.

After roadways are cleared for passage, the port commission said it will notify tenants when limited port access is given to return and assess damages. This will be a phased-in approach with tenant assessment teams being allowed into the port first.