A delivery of ceramic proppants, also known as fracking sand, is set to arrive Thursday at the Port of Olympia’s marine terminal, while wind power-related cargo could return to the port next year.
That’s according to Marine Terminal Director Len Faucher, who recently updated the Port Commission on his efforts to bring more cargoes to the marine terminal. His presentation at last week’s commission meeting was a mix of optimism about the future as well as an acknowledgment of the challenges.
Of late, the marine terminal has been busy. A third shipment of organic corn was recently delivered to the port and warehouse, while a log ship cast off from the dock fully loaded early Wednesday. And for the first time in months, the port will receive a shipment of ceramic proppants, or fracking sand, Thursday aboard the Star Lysefjord.
The port is still working with a customer who sends that fracking sand to North Dakota to aid in the removal of Bakken oil. But shipments slowed after the price of crude oil fell sharply — to about $46 a barrel from more than $100 a barrel, Faucher told the commission. That resulted in one shipment in 2015. Marine terminal revenue fell sharply as a result. Thursday’s visit is the first of 2016.
The marine terminal has been affected by a stronger U.S. dollar, which has increased the cost of exports. Despite the stronger dollar, the log export business at the port has remained steady.
The port used to handle windblades for wind energy projects. That cargo disappeared when tax incentives were eliminated, Faucher told the commission, but the tax incentives are back in place.
“My outlook for 2017: Get ready for wind,” Faucher said.
Commissioner Bill McGregor asked Faucher about whether he was familiar with a wind energy project pitched between Thurston and Lewis counties.
“Perhaps there’s an opportunity,” he said.
Faucher said he was well aware of the proposal.
“Our eyes are on it,” he said.
Under consideration is a 52-turbine wind energy farm called Skookumchuck Wind Energy.
The port is largely known as a destination for breakbulk cargoes — the kind of cargo that doesn’t fit into a container. The port’s mobile crane can handle containers, and vehicles have rolled off the ship at the port before, but Faucher explained that it is “not in our best interests to compete directly” with the alliance created between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle.
In recent months, Faucher has spent about one week a month on the road trying to hustle up new business, he said Wednesday. He’s back on the road next week when he attends a breakbulk cargo conference in Houston.