Port officials: Crude oil no longer in plans

Port officials said that both pending crude oil proposals by current Port tenants have been abandoned.

The Port of Grays Harbor gave an annual report to the Ocean Shores City Council on Monday night and the issue of shipping crude oil by rail and sea was “off the table” for the first time in four years.

Port officials said that both pending crude oil proposals by current Port tenants Contanda Grays Harbor (formerly Westway Terminals) and REG (formerly Imperium Renewables) have been abandoned and the companies are seeking to ship other products instead.

“Both Contanda and REG have taken crude oil off the lists of commodities that they handle, so there are no longer any crude oil projects in Grays Harbor,” said Kayla Dunlap, the Port’s public affairs manager.

REG and Contanda “have both stepped back, stepped away from doing crude and are pursuing other directions for their sites, and those are the only two that were left,” added Port General Manager Gary Nelson. “I think you can say that crude oil is no longer on the table for either company.”

The city of Ocean Shores, mayor and council had been on record officially opposing the shipping of crude oil on the grounds of potential environmental catastrophe should a spill occur off the coast or along rail lines.

The Port’s marine terminals and Harbor navigation services provide about 80 percent of the public agency’s annual operating revenues, projected to be about $25 million in 2017. The Port also handles the operation at the Satsop Business Park.

This year, it is expected that there will be 100 vessel calls to the Port, which is in keeping with a steady increase over the normal of 20-40 vessel calls of a decade ago, Dunlap said.

“That’s a good problem to have,” she said.

The Port is seeking to expand as well, expressing interest in the former pontoon-building site owned and used by the Washington Department of Transportation to build the pontoons in the Interstate 520 bridge project that has been completed in Seattle. The site is just east of the Port’s Terminal 4 in Aberdeen. Other expansion being considered is the former Grays Harbor Paper site, also adjacent to Port property.

The AGP company seeks to continue to expand its grain export business, Dunlap said, along with expansion plans from REG (Renewable Energy Group), which currently has a 100 million gallon per year biorefinery for bio-fuels.

“Whether that is a new refinery or some kind of storage capacity to support what they currently do, hopefully we’ll have some answers soon on that,” Dunlap said of the REG expansion. “It would be a significant investment in Grays Harbor.”

Contanda also is looking at expanding to handle several other liquid bulk products, not crude oil, Dunlap added, saying permits are expected to be submitted soon.

Also, there is a developing proposal to ship potash through Terminal 3 in Hoquiam by Australian mining company BHP Billton. Potash is sodium chloride and used for fertilizer, Dunlap said. It is mined in Canada and would be shipped by rail to the Port of Grays Harbor and then on to Asian countries.

If all the expansions are approved, it will be about a $1 billion in the local economy, Dunlap said.

One of the big questions in Ocean Shores was what the Port is doing for the city, which has no Port facilities and yet supplies a large portion of the property tax revenue the Port also receives.

“Is there anything you are working on in Ocean Shores that would actually help us?” City Councilman Jon Martin asked.

Nelson noted the Port continues to work with the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a long-term solution to shoreline erosion around the North Jetty.