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How Natural Infrastructure is Protecting Critical Assets and Louisiana’s Coast

Louisiana is rapidly losing its crucial habitat, losing some 1,883 square miles of land between 1932 and 2010 – an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. If we don’t protect coastal Louisiana wetlands now, they won’t be there in the future. What if we showed you how Jacobs and Shell Pipeline Company turned more than 96,000 plastic bottles into a natural infrastructure solution that serves as a model for balancing coastal infrastructure integrity and an evolving natural environment? 

Louisiana wetlands

In 1819 – 200 years ago – the United States went into its first major financial crisis, Spain ceded Florida to the U.S. and literary greats Walt Whitman and Herman Melville were born. In the following two centuries, much of the world around us has changed – especially the nation’s original wetland habitats.

Coastal land loss is a serious challenge confronting Louisiana. Traditional flood control measures have caused further wetlands deterioration and loss, so much so the state of Louisiana lost 1,883 square miles of land between 1932 and 2010 — an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

What if we could help change that trend with natural infrastructure?

Natural infrastructure in coastal Louisiana

Shell Pipeline Company, with help from Jacobs, are implementing one natural infrastructure solution serving as a model for balancing coastal infrastructure integrity and an evolving natural environment.

Home to a large fishing and sportsman industry, unique cultural and culinary history and architecture, Louisiana also houses critical oil and gas infrastructure responsible for collection and distribution of a third of the U.S.’s oil.

One such piece of infrastructure is the Ship Shoal Pipeline, a joint venture operated by Shell Pipeline, with 22-inch and 16-inch pipelines that run 31 miles along the Louisiana Coast, crossing a 650-foot-wide channel to deliver 50 million barrels of crude oil per year from deep-water assets in the Gulf of Mexico to the region and the economy.

The pipeline faces many challenges, including ensuring its integrity by addressing the loss of protective sediment and minimizing rising maintenance costs. To improve infrastructure integrity and environmental health at the same time.  Shell Pipeline desired a different approach – turning to Jacobs as a leader in the natural infrastructure space to create a non-traditional approach that would protect the pipeline and benefit the coastal ecosystem.

50M

barrels of crude oil transported per year on the Shell Pipeline Company LP’s Ship Shoal Pipeline along Louisiana’s coast

96K

recycled plastic bottles turned into a sustainable, living coastline to protect vulnerable Louisiana marshland

In coastal Louisiana, the ecosystem is dramatically different than it was one hundred years ago. Coastal land loss is impacting communities and the infrastructure that supports them, including critical energy assets such as pipelines. Jacobs’ and Shell’s natural solution not only supports these pipelines, but also serves as a model for balancing coastal infrastructure and an evolving natural environment today and for generations to come.

Tom Meinhart
Jacobs Senior Vice President and South Regional Director, Buildings & Infrastructure Americas

A rendition of resilience

Transforming Blue Hammock Bayou

Blue Hammock Bayou sits on the Louisiana coast where Ship Shoal Pipeline runs. Electing to apply a natural infrastructure solution rather than implementing more grey infrastructure, our team led analysis on the coastal environment and designed a solution, alongside The Nature Conservancy, that included installation of vegetation and sediment filled baskets to deter, coil logs filled with rock and coconut fibers, as well as sediment compaction and revegetation with robust clonal species adapted to water depth and energy forces. While protective of the pipeline, the sustainable solution has stabilized the marsh and greatly enhanced the natural habitat.

Continuing the restorative pattern at Lost Lake

On the heels of the success at Blue Hammock Bayou, our team once again partnered with Shell in Louisiana to apply an additional natural infrastructure solution along the Ship Shoal corridor. This time, Jacobs served as lead design engineer, alongside Shell, Martin Ecosystems and Chet Morrison Contractors, to install a system of 60 EcoBales – or modular cylinders which allow water to filter through – at Lost Lake.

Created by Martin EcoSystems, EcoBales, manufactured using 100% recycled materials, are lightweight and provide shoreline protection, ridge establishment and canal closure. Depending on size, each EcoBale is made using 1,200-2,400 PET plastic bottles and weighs approximately 225 to 425 pounds.

The PET fibers of the EcoBale bond together forming a non-toxic, nonwoven matrix. The strength of this matrix reduces wave energy and its open-cell design allows the collection of sediment within the structure – key to sediment entrapment and build up. Each EcoBale is coated with a marine grade polyurea for strength and UV protection, creating a strong durable product.

At Lost Lake, our 60-EcoBale system – made from 96,000 recycled plastic bottles – closed off the pipeline right-of-way, while also creating a natural ridge and ecosystem. In doing so, it’s already improving marsh production and water quality, flood risk reduction and aquatic resource benefits. Additionally, the EcoBale’s lightweight design further reduced the impacts to the surrounding ecosystem by requiring less personnel and equipment and by eliminating the need for dredging in shallow project areas during installation.

As the coastal environment conditions change, Jacobs and Shell are committed to using natural infrastructure to fortify and enhance vulnerable coastal land and critical infrastructure assets – using successes and practices from both the Blue Hammock Bayou and Lost Lake projects to guide future solutions.

Interested in learning more about how Jacobs transforms intangible ideas into intelligent solutions for a more connected, sustainable world? Visit www.jacobs.com/what-if.

A healthy marsh is needed to provide a safe and supportive environment for all coastal wildlife. A sustainable marsh provides the protection and support for our oil and gas pipelines, in turn protecting the infrastructure which provides the revenue to support our community and economy.”

Greg Mouras
Offshore Shell Pipeline Company LP Facilities Manager