In its annual report to the Ocean Shores City Council this week, Port of Grays Harbor officials said 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,” said Port General Manager Gary Nelson. “I think you can say that crude oil is no longer on the table for either company.”
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The Ocean Shores mayor and council had been on record officially opposing the shipping of crude oil out of concern over the potential environmental catastrophe that could occur if there were a spill off the coast or along rail lines.
The Grays Harbor 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 operates the Satsop Business Park.
This year, the port expects 100 vessel calls, 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 site owned and used by the Washington Department of Transportation to build the pontoons for the now-completed Interstate 520 bridge project in Seattle. The port also is considering the former Grays Harbor Paper site adjacent to port property.
The AGP company wants to expand its grain export business, Dunlap said. REG (Renewable Energy Group), which currently has a 100-million-gallon-per-year biorefinery for bio-fuels, also wants to expand.
“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 liquid bulk products other than 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.