Port Sulphur, Louisiana

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Port Sulphur is a census-designated place (CDP) on the West Bank of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 3,115 at the 2000 census.

The name Port Sulphur derives from the Freeport Sulphur Company in the early 1930s, when it set up logistics, refining, storage and shipping operations to support its Frasch Process sulphur mine at Lake Grande Ecaille, located 10 miles west of the town in the nearby marsh. The Grande Ecaille mine was the largest sulphur deposit in the world when it began operation in 1933, and remained in production until 1978. Over time, as other discoveries were made, The Freeport Sulphur Company also used the Port Sulphur facility to support their other Frasch Process sulphur mines located at Garden Island Bay, LA; Lake Pelto, LA; Caillou Island, LA; a land based mine at Chacahoula, LA; The first offshore sulphur mines at Grand Isle, LA and Caminada Pass, LA; and a large operation 50 miles offshore from the Mississippi River Delta in 300 feet of water, at Main Pass Block 299 in the Gulf of Mexico. The facility was also used to process and ship recovered sulphur obtained by oil and gas refining. The terminal was able to filter and store liquid hot molten sulphur in large insulated heated tanks, and "vat" liquid sulphur into acres of long term dry storage by forming blocks of bright yellow sulphur by spraying molten sulphur into metal forms on the ground and allowing to cool. The site is valuable because of its proximity to sulphur producing areas near the Gulf of Mexico, its docking sites along the Mississippi River and back bay marsh.

Contents

History

Port Sulphur was originally a typical company town, with its residents and civic life closely tied to the Freeport Sulphur Company. As time went by,the company divested itself of much of the town property and governance, it became more of a regular town with private individual land ownership. As the number of employees at the site dwindled, the Freeport Company became less important in everyday life and economic activity. At some point in time, most of the Company owned land not necessary for the sulphur operation was transferred to Plaquemines Parish or sold to private owners. The economic fortunes of the Freeport Sulphur Company declined during the 1980s and 1990s, resulting from its merger with McMoRan Exploration, an oil and gas company that neglected the sulphur operations. In the early 2000s Freeport Sulphur shut down operations, as the price of sulphur dropped too low because large amounts of sulphur recovered during petroleum refining and huge amounts of Sulphur recovered from Canadian natural gas exploration that were dumped on the international Sulphur market. With inexpensive recovered sulphur in large supply, the large scale and expensive Frasch Process sulphur mining and storage operations proved to be uneconomical and were discontinued. The Freeport-McMoRan Port Sulphur facility was closed and sold. Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of what was left of the sulphur facility in August 2005, with a few buildings remaining. With the closing of Freeport-McMoRan Sulphur, the town has been seeking another economic identity.

The large brick Plaquemines Parish Government building located on LA.HWY 23 in town next to the former Freeport property was originally the Freeport Sulphur Company administration building. The Port Sulphur school and other buildings located around the Civic Drive area were originally located on company property and are oriented towards the former Freeport Property. Much of the original town buildings were sold or removed, and much of the original town site sits mostly vacant empty land, with a large stand of Oak trees on the former Freeport Property next to the Plaquemines Government building. An historical marker about Port Sulphur is located in front of the Government Building. The golf course land located on LA.HWY 23, just south of the former Freeport property, was originally a neighborhood of the company townsite. The land was later donated to the Plaquemines Parish Government.

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