It’s an underwater oil-offloading station for tankers coming into the Gulf. The pictures are pretty neat — there are “plugs” underwater to which tankers can connect themselves and offload oil. They must just look like they’re floating in the in the middle of nowhere while they do it, since all the work is going on underwater.
Tankers offload at LOOP by pumping crude oil through hoses connected to a Single Point Mooring (SPM) base. Some of these vessels require water depths of 85 feet—the water depth at each of LOOP’s SPMs is 115 feet. Three SPMs are located 8,000 feet from the Marine Terminal. The SPMs are designed to handle ships up to 700,000 deadweight tons. The SPMs are 21 feet in diameter, 46 feet high and are anchored to a seabed base with an anchor chain. Mooring lines connect the bow of a tanker to the buoy and flexible hoses are used to transport crude oil from the tanker to a submarine pipeline. The buoy and hoses can rotate a full 360 degrees allowing the tanker to maintain a heading of least resistance to wind and waves.
Sadly, LOOP is offline with the mess going on down there.