An energy company says it’s looking at several locations in Oregon and Washington as potential sites for what could be the West Coast’s first crude oil refinery in more than 25 years.
Riverside Energy Inc. CEO Louis J. Soumas said Wednesday his company has engaged in discussions with a variety of locations in the two states in its pursuit of a place to build such a facility.
Details of the planned refinery surfaced Wednesday through public records obtained and released by Columbia Riverkeeper. Those documents showed an unsigned agreement with the Port of Longview in July 2014 for what would be the first refinery on the Columbia River.
A proposal to build a new oil refinery in the Northwest is the latest measure of how much oil production is ramping up in North America. Crude is being pumped from the Bakken region of North Dakota and the tar sands in Alberta, Canada. Much of this oil is being hauled by train to the Northwest — bound for shipping terminals or the five oil refineries already operating along Puget Sound.
“This is what we do – Washington’s ports were designed as our communities’ business agents to evaluate opportunities for economic growth,” Port of Longview CEO Geir Kalhagen said in statement. “This project is not the first and it certainly won’t be the last to be presented to the Port of Longview.”
Soumas said discussions with other locations have gone as far as with Longview, but he declined to name the locations or state how many are being considered. Soumas said specific details of the project have “changed substantially,” but did not provide details.
“We’re not interested in promoting a project that hasn’t been agreed to by the local communities first,” Soumas said, adding that Riverside hopes to work with environmental groups. “It’s unfortunate the Riverkeeper has chosen to go public without contacting us, chosen to rely on outdated information, and chosen to take the approach that they did.”
Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of the Columbia Riverkeeper, said his organization released the records because “If this is even being discussed, it’s worth a public debate and not a backroom discussion.”
“I don’t think a refinery is compatible with our communities here,” VandenHeuvel said. “It’s just too dangerous. We’ve invested so much time restoring salmon runs. Revitalizing communities. An oil refinery is exactly the opposite way we want to go.”
The refinery described in the 2014 documents would have a capacity of 30,000 barrels per day and produce a mix of diesel, gasoline and jet fuel primarily for regional use. The company projects as many as 400 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs tied to the project, with an average wage of $75,000.
That capacity would make it the smallest refinery in Washington, which range up to 243,000 barrels per day at British Petroleum’s refinery in Ferndale.
It would, however, be the largest newly constructed refinery in the United States since 1976, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. Most refineries constructed in that span have increased capacity significantly since their initial construction.
Roughly 10 trains per month would transport sweet light crude from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to the refinery. Once refined, motor vehicle fuel and other petroleum-based products would be transported by water.
Several trains carrying crude oil have derailed and exploded in recent years, prompting widespread concern and proposed regulations for current practices of moving mass quantities of oil by rail. Spill planners and emergency responders in both Oregon and Washington have expressed concern they lack the personnel and resources to respond to an oil train derailment.
Meanwhile, oil prices have dropped sharply in recent months and oil production in North Dakota declined, as well.