by Wilma Subra

Subra Company / Louisiana Environmental Action Network

by Wilma Subra

Subra Company / Louisiana Environmental Action Network

The Gulf of Mexico northern coastal area in the United States is better know as the Energy Coast.

Oil and Gas Wells in the Gulf


Needham, Hal, David Brown, Lynne Carter., 2012: Impacts and Adaptation Options in the Gulf Coast :

There are approximately 4,000 drilling and production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The majority of the platforms are off the coast of Louisiana. In addition, thousands of producing wells are located in the territorial seas off the shores of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and to a lesser extent off Alabama. These wells are in the Gulf of Mexico, within three miles of the state boarders and under the jurisdiction of each state. Each platform serves a number of producing wells that produce crude oil, natural gas and condensate. The produced crude oil, natural gas and condensate are transported on shore through a maze of pipelines.


Oil and Gas Industry Infrastructure Along the Gulf Coast


Needham, Hal, David Brown, Lynne Carter., 2012: Impacts and Adaptation Options in the Gulf Coast :

Seaport and Import Facilities

The largest concentrations of seaports and import facilities for oil and gas are located in the Gulf Coast region. Seventeen of the 69 oil seaports and import facilities are located in the Gulf Coast area. Ten of the 24 natural gas hubs are located in the Gulf Coast area. In southwest Louisiana, the natural gas hub, Henry Hub in Vermilion Parish, imports 50% of the natural gas used in the United States from Gulf of Mexico production. The price of natural gas on the New York Mercantile Exchange is set at the Henry Hub.

Petroleum Refineries Along the Gulf Coast


Needham, Hal, David Brown, Lynne Carter., 2012: Impacts and Adaptation Options in the Gulf Coast :

Petroleum Refineries

The United States has 134 operating petroleum refineries. A total of 37% of the operating petroleum refineries are location in the Gulf Coast region.

  • Texas 26 petroleum refineries
  • Louisiana 18 petroleum refineries
  • Mississippi 3 petroleum refineries
  • Alabama 3 petroleum refineries

Eight million barrels of crude oil are refined each day at the Gulf Coast petroleum refineries. This is half of the refining capacity in the United states (16,744,291 barrens). The crude refined in Gulf Coast petroleum refineries comes from conventional domestic production, shale oil, foreign imports and Canadian Tar Sands

U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2012:

Shale Plays


U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2011:

Shale plays are very deep formations that were not economically feasible to produce until tax incentives were provided and horizontal fracturing technologies were developed. The technology is far outdistancing the ability of state governmental agencies to regulate shale drilling, fracturing and production. The development of the shale plays is considered unconventional development and is having extensive negative impacts on the environment and human health.

The shales in the Gulf Coast states consist of:


  • Barnett Shale in the Fort Worth area of Texas – gas production
  • Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas – oil and gas production

Large quantities of the produced gas is flared, the focus is on oil production

Louisiana and Texas

  • Haynesville – North West Louisiana in the Shreveport area and
  • North East Texas – gas production

Louisiana and Mississippi

  • Tuscaloosa – oil and gas production


  • Black Warrior Basin – Coal Bed Methane

The oil from coastal shales and from the Bakken shale play in North Dakota is transported to the petroleum refineries in the Gulf Coast area for refining.


Federal Energy Regulatory Committee, 2013:

Liquified Natural Gas

Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is natural gas that is cooled and compressed to make shipping in specially designed ships more economical. Until gas shale plays across the United States were developed, there was a shortage of domestic natural gas resources and a need to import natural gas for domestic consumption. The current operating natural gas import terminals are concentrated along the Gulf Cost in Louisiana and Texas. A proposed import facility at Corpus Christi is also located along the Gulf Coast. Now that there is an excess of natural gas being produced in the United States from the shale plays, the liquified natural gas export market is driving the LNG facility development picture.

There are 13 proposed LNG export terminals. Nine of the 13 proposed facilities are in Louisiana (6) and Texas (3). Louisiana has the first export facility approved by DOE and FERC, the Chenier facility in Cameron Parish. It will export LNG to non-free trade countries. It is in the pre-construction phase. The proposed Freeport, Texas LNG export facility has recently received DOE approval. FERC approval has not yet been received. In addition, there are six additional export terminal sites that have been identified by project sponsors:

  • 3 in Texas
  • 2 in Louisiana
  • 1 in Mississippi (Pascagoula)

It should be noted that Pascagoula is home to one of the 10 largest petroleum refineries in the United States, the Chevron Refinery. There is a currently proposed pipeline to transport Canadian Tar Sand crude and Bakken Shale crude from a train depot in Mobile, Alabama to the Chevron Refinery in Pascagoula.

U.S. Gulf Terminal Options


State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Energy Opportunity Office of Coal Development , 2013: 


State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Energy Opportunity Office of Coal Development , 2013:


Twenty percent of the 500 coal burning power plants in the United States are expected to shut down in the next few years. Coal producing companies have thus targeted export markets for their coal production. There are five coal export terminals along the Mississippi River in Louisiana. These terminals receive coal by barge, rail and truck and export to foreign countries by ship. There are also coal export terminals in Corpus Christi and Houston, Texas as well as on the Mobile River and McDuffie Island in Alabama.

The east coast coal terminals exported the most steam coal in 2001 through 2003. Beginning in 2008 and continuing through 2012, New Orleans lead the nation in quantity of steam coal exported, except in 2009. In 2012, New Orleans was the largest exporter of steam coal while Mobile and Houston ports increased in export quantities from 2010 through 2012.

The McDuffie Island coal terminal near Mobile, Alabama is the second largest coal terminal in the United States. It has a capacity of 30 million tons on an annual basis. This fiscal year, the McDuffie terminal predicts to export two million standard tons of thermal coal, three times the quantity exported last fiscal year. The McDuffie terminal exports steam coal from the Illinois Basin to Asia and Europe. This fiscal year, the export of metallurgical coal is expected to reach 10 million tons. The terminal also imports thermal coal from Columbia for use by coal fired power plants in Alabama and Mississippi.

Coal terminals in New Orleans and Houston are increasing their export quantities by exporting Powder River Basin, Colorado and Illinois Basin coal. These exports are destined for European markets.

The current coal terminals are expanding. New coal export facilities and expansion of existing coal terminals have permit applications pending.

Energy Sector Impacts

The Gulf Coast area is really the Energy Coast. The massive infrastructure to sustain energy development has caused massive destruction to the environment on shore as well as off shore in the Gulf of Mexico. The toxic emissions and waste from the energy sector have had a very large impact on the quantity of green house gases released into the environment and contributed extensively to global warming impacts. In addition, the toxic emissions and waste have resulted in severe acute and chronic human health impacts.

The human health impacts are experienced by environmental justice communities living in the areas of the facilities and infrastructure and by the workers employed in the energy sector. The economic impacts of the energy sector are huge, but for the most part, not enjoyed by the environmental justice communities. The environmental and human health impacts of the energy sector are extensive and an extreme burden to the environmental justice communities along the coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico.

  • LEAN
  • wilma subra
  • gulf of mexico
  • oil and gas
  • riverkeeper
  • coal
  • natural gas
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