From the Middle East to the Middle West

Leave it to a bunch of Somali pirates to underscore how what happens on the west coast of Africa directly affects people in the United States.

The Greek-owned supertanker hijacked by Somali pirates over the weekend was headed for a deepwater port known as LOOP.

Most crude oil from the Middle East comes via massive tankers too large for New Orleans to offload oil. The hijacked Maran Centaurus is a 300,000-ton vessel, holding 2 million barrels of oil. 

LOOP (Lousiana Offshore Oil Port) can handle ships more than twice as big.

About 1 million barrels of foreign crude — 10 percent of all U.S. imports — flow through LOOP every day.

Here’s how the oil flows from the Middle East to the Middle West:

  1. Tankers connect to a buoy 18 miles off the coast of Louisiana.
  2. An underwater pipeline moves oil a mile and a half to an offshore terminal.
  3. Four 7,000 horsepower pumps send oil ashore.
  4. At Fourchon, Louisiana, another massive pumping station sends the oil another 25 miles inland.
  5. The oil arrives at a network of underground salt caverns that can hold 50 million barrels of oil.
  6. From the caverns, the Locap pipeline channels oil 53 miles to St. James, Lousiana.
  7. At St. James, there’s a link to Capline which moves oil to Patoka, Illinois.
  8. The Chicap pipeline runs from Patoka to the Chicago suburbs.
  9. From there or at several points along the way, it’s refined and trucked to you!

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