The Plains All American St. James Terminal updates and improves, keeping the facility viable in an ever-advancing market

At the Plains All American Pipeline St. James Terminal, progress is obviously measured in barrels, whether oil is stored or shipped. But that’s not all. Progress is also calculated in sound – more specifically a symphony of construction that hasn’t ceased since company leaders purchased a huge swath of land a decade ago on the Mississippi River that would eventually become its Gulf Coast hub. Even new Terminal Manager Doug Fulkerson – a self-professed “lifer” at Plains All American who has been positioned in south Louisiana for less than a year – admits the facility has transformed during his short tenure in charge.

“It’s gotten to the point where the question to ask is, ‘When is there not an expansion going on?’” Fulkerson says. “This facility was built in phases – Phase I and Phase II obviously to start – and in 2015-2016 we’re completing Phases VI and VII of construction. That includes the addition of tankage. We’ve been able to put an additional 1.2 million barrels into service in the last three months alone.”

“Each expansion really adheres to our philosophy as a company, which is simple – put your workers in a place where they can succeed.”

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Situated on 2,500 acres, the Plains terminal in St. James Parish is a 12-million-barrel crude oil and condensate storage facility suited to receive, deliver and store the product. The setup within the Port of South Louisiana’s boundaries is a vital cog for a company that owns 18,000 miles of active pipeline in North America. About 20 Plains employees man the day-to-day operations of the terminal, although hundreds of construction workers have been on site since it began operating in 2007.

Capable of loading and offloading more than 150,000 barrels a day, the St. James Terminal features a Mississippi River dock capable of handling barges and tankers, along with a rail receipt terminal.

“This is a flagship facility, which as a manager brings a lot of exciting challenges that I’ve been eager to meet since I arrived,” says Fulkerson. “And when you break it down, the things that make this place unique are the rail and the marine activity. The other facilities I’ve managed have been inland, so with some you’ll have rail, but none had a waterway. So for me, that was a bit of a learning curve.

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“But the concept as far as what we do as a terminal is the same: be able to move and store products,” Fulkerson continues. “It’s just that we’re not only taking it via pipe with all the connections we have down here in Louisiana, but also inland with the rail and bidirectional on the river with the docks.”

As Plains continues to meet customer demands, it does so with an emphasis on safety – one of the core values of the company. Not only does Plains implement various self-monitoring safety initiatives and conduct regular facility assessments to evaluate and enhance conditions, but it also thoroughly trains its staff to recognize the proper way to perform activities efficiently and safely.

Fulkerson emphasized the St. James employees’ commitment to safety and other core values as a key accelerant to making his transition to the new position a smooth one.

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“The folks down here at this Plains site have been tremendous,” Fulkerson says. “And that’s just really a compliment to the type of workers Plains hires, and a compliment to the people who do the hiring –they know a good, talented, hard-working employee when they see one. The relationship we have down here in St. James is built on trust and respect.

That’s helped with my transition and these employees have become part of the family.”

By William Kalec



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