Port of Vancouver upgrades will keep gas company here

Commissioners hope utility improvements will lure other tenants

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

Published:

Updated: May 25, 2010, 5:25 PM

 

Natural gas distributor ­Keyera Energy Co. will relocate its facilities and keep jobs in Vancouver under a plan approved by the Port of Vancouver’s Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

The three-member board unanimously approved a contract of about $984,000 to extend utilities and make other improvements to a four-acre parcel north of the port’s Terminal 5 rail loop. The work to improve the property, to begin in the next 14 days, will enable Keyera to relocate its liquefied propane gas storage and transfer facility at 1308 W. McLoughlin Blvd. to the northeastern portion of the former Alcoa-Evergreen aluminum site, now called Terminal 5.

Curtis Shuck, director of economic development and facilities for the port, said Keyera’s relocation plans, coupled with the board’s action Tuesday, will retain three to four full-time and part-time jobs directly associated with Keyera’s operations. Shuck said the move also means that roughly 20 to 30 jobs indirectly associated with Keyera’s operations, such as truck drivers making deliveries, will stay in Vancouver.

The utilities work the board approved Tuesday not only “provides the foundation” for Keyera to develop the site, but it also “prepares the property for other interested users,” Shuck said. “You build it, and they come.”

The Keyera project is the latest deal being pursued by the Port of Vancouver to promote economic development in the region. Last week, for example, the port announced plans to sell up to 22 acres of industrial property to Farwest Steel Corp., a move that could eventually generate up to 225 jobs. The port’s board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the first step of its plans with Farwest — freeing up the property so it may be sold — on June 8.

Meanwhile, the port is focusing on rail improvements to speed freight, including a $137 million plan to complete the West Vancouver Freight Access project by 2017. A piece of that project - the $14 million Terminal 5 rail loop - is nearly finished, Shuck said, and will benefit Keyera by giving it access to more rail cars to ship its products.

In February, Keyera, based in Alberta, Canada, signed a $3.4 million, 20-year lease with the port, becoming the first industrial tenant at the Terminal 5 property. The company plans to use the site to build three 80,000-gallon liquid propane tanks, a fueling rack, a 540-square-foot office and a 160-square foot shed. Propane will arrive to the terminal by rail and will be distributed from the facility by truck. No pipeline will be involved in the Keyera operations. Shuck said the company is expected to complete the relocation of its propane tank farm by the end of this summer.

Keyera is being displaced from its current site because of a proposed Washington Department of Transportation rail yard expansion there.

Also on Tuesday, the port’s board voted to hire Rotschy Inc., a Vancouver-based excavation and construction company, to extend water and sanitary sewer utilities along Old Lower River Road, and to make pavement and storm drainage improvements, to serve the Terminal 5 property.

Alan Hargrave, project manager for the port, told the board Tuesday that crews won’t have to uproot freshly built rail lines at the Terminal 5 property to make room for the utility work because the port built in casings that allow water and sewer lines to be installed without disruption.

That pleased board President Jerry Oliver. “It’s good to know we’re thinking ahead,” he said.