Company proposes biofuel refinery in Cowlitz County

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LONGVIEW — A Houston-based group of investors is again looking to develop a biofuel refinery in Cowlitz County, more than a year after their plans for oil, propane and biofuel projects were rejected by the Port of Longview. The refinery will focus on processing biofuel only, dropping earlier plans to process crude oil too. And the project won’t be built on Port of Longview property.

Riverside Renewables LLC would process 150 million gallons of virgin seed oil as a “drop-in” replacement fuel for diesel trucks, according to the company. The $500 million facility would process biofuel for domestic markets and would not use palm oil, said Lou Soumas, Riverside spokesman.

Riverside may also partner with a liquid petroleum gas provider to build a transfer terminal on its property, but there are no firm plans yet, Soumas said.

Soumas and other project backers have been in talks with Millennium Bulk Terminals and other private companies about the project. Soumas declined to say where the project would be located.

Millennium Bulk Terminals has said it would pursue other tenants on its property to operate alongside its proposed coal export terminal, but it had not released specifics about potential tenants.

“Millennium has been in ongoing conversations with companies that include Riverside Renewables and its affiliates about a Renewable Diesel Refinery and a LPG Transfer Terminal. No binding agreements have been reached and as we understand (that) no permit applications have been filed by the prospective businesses, but discussions continue with those interests in mind,” said Peter Bennett, vice president of business development at Millennium Bulk Terminals, in a prepared statement.

“If a company can demonstrate the ability to operate a safe facility and they have an attractive business plan that passes Washington’s strict environmental regulations, we want them to join Millennium in bringing more jobs and tax revenue to Cowlitz County,” Bennett said.

It’s not clear which other private companies Riverside has approached about its plans.

Construction of the biofuel refinery could potentially start in 2018 and generate an estimated 800 construction jobs and 130 full-time permanent jobs, according to Riverside’s press release.

Although Riverside declined to release specifics, Soumas said the company wanted to announce plans as it moves forward.

According to the company, its renewable fuel would emit 70 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional fossil fuels. It said it meets low-carbon fuel standards in Oregon, California and British Columbia.

Riverside’s latest project proposal is smaller in scope than the biofuel refinery it had proposed at the Port of Longview in 2015. Then the company went by Riverside Refining/Waterside Energy. It wanted to build a refinery to process both crude oil and biofuel. The investors also wanted to build a propane terminal under the name Washington Energy Storage and Transfer.

Port of Longview commissioners voted to cut off talks with Riverside/Waterside in February 2016, arguing that the company failed to prove it had the financial backing for its projects.

Soumas said Tuesday that Riverside continued to pursue options in Cowlitz County because the county has access to deep-water ports, rail and an industrial workforce.