Expanding Protection of Port Fourchon, Louisiana’s Energy Industry Hub
September 08, 2021
Managing Sediment to Prevent Land Loss
The southernmost port in Louisiana is a key place for the U.S. energy industry, but—as evidenced by Hurricane Ida—also one of the most vulnerable places in the nation.
Port Fourchon in Lafourche Parish serves 90% of the Gulf of Mexico’s deepwater oil and gas activities, housing at least 250 companies. More than 1.5 million barrels of crude oil are transported by pipeline through the port and about 1,200 trucks travel in and out of the port each day. Meanwhile, Port Fourchon is increasingly at risk from hurricanes, storm surge, and flooding.
A long, thin strip of sandy beach stretches along the southern perimeter of the port, buffering it from the northern Gulf of Mexico. But each year, the shoreline retreats by about 30 to 50 feet, creeping closer to the port. The area loses more land from sea level rise, erosion, and subsidence, or sinking, than any other place in the U.S.
LSU is now broadening its efforts to protect Port Fourchon, from above and from below. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory recently invested $25 million in LSU to create a digital dome protecting Port Fourchon and the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the nation’s only offshore deepwater port, from cybersecurity threats. At the same time, LSU oceanographers and coastal scientists are working on ways to manage sediment to prevent land loss and physically shore up the port. This group includes Kevin Xu, who is an expert on developing complex computer models that can simulate and forecast how sediment moves and alters the coast.
“The efforts by LSU are of great importance to anyone involved in determining how best to use dredged sediments in the most beneficial ways for the areas protecting Port Fourchon as well as the southern Louisiana coastline.”
Chett C. Chiasson, executive director of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission