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More than oil: Texas firm pitches propane export at Port of Longview

Project at port would be in addition to oil refinery proposed previously

By Marissa Luck, The Daily News
Published: September 3, 2015, 12:58pm

A Houston-based company unveiled plans Wednesday for a dramatically expanded energy project on private property at the Port of Longview.

In addition to a previously announced $800 million oil refinery, Waterside Energy revealed it wants to build a separate $450 million liquid propane export facility. The total investment would be $1.25 billion and would create 700 construction jobs and 180 direct jobs once the facilities went online, Riverside Refining officials said.

“Longview has the mentality that ‘We can get the job done,’ we want to invest in the community,” Lou Soumas, Waterside Energy CEO, told The Daily News editorial board.

Waterside had earlier floated the possibility of handling up to 164,000 barrels of crude oil per day at the facility, according to documents obtained by environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper. But the proposal outlined Wednesday mentions only liquefied petroleum gas, not crude oil.

Wednesday evening, Soumas and other Waterside officials described the projects to an estimated 200 people at the Cowlitz Expo Center. The company has not yet started to seek permits for the project.

Both proposed projects would be built on private property totaling 75 acres: One parcel is owned by Fern America, another owned by N.A.P. Steel. The locations are slightly different from those announced earlier.

Waterside already has a contract with N.A.P. Steel, contingent on a successful deal with the port, to buy the land and then lease it back to N.A.P. for the two-year construction period. The steel company is looking to relocate in Longview, said Danny Younce, N.A.P. general manager.

The only parts of the Waterside project the port would have jurisdiction over are an underground pipeline, a rail corridor and a wharf that would be needed to ship petroleum products.

The project in no way infringes on the port’s “laydown” yard, and cargo handling area that union dockworkers defended from encroachment by the proposed Haven Energy butane and export terminal.

Riverside’s newly proposed liquid petroleum gas export facility is dubbed “Washington Energy Storage and Transfer.” It could receive up to 75,000 barrels per day of butane and propane.

Every month, about 29 pressurized rail trains would carry propane and butane from Canada and North Dakota to Longview. The trains would use the port’s rail corridor and avoid all street crossings.

Once delivered, the propane would be chilled and stored in refrigerated tanks, which Waterside said is a safer method of storage than pressurized tanks. Eventually, it would be exported to Asia by four ships every month.

The liquid petroleum gas project will be a 50/50 venture with a yet-to-be-named partner, Soumas said.

Waterside’s proposed propane export facility would actually be larger than the Haven project, which port commissioners rejected this spring.

Soumas said his company is very different from Haven.

“We were watching (Haven) from the sidelines and sort of scratching our heads,” he said.

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Riverside’s proposed oil refinery would process 45,000 barrels per day of oil — 15,000 barrels of vegetable seed oils and 30,000 barrels of crude oil. Most of that product will be sold into the greater Portland market.

The company says about 10 mile-long “unit” trains would deliver light Midwestern crude oil to the Longview project each month. (This means the two project components combined will bring about 39 trains a month to the area.)

Riverside Refining would increase the amount of renewable fuels produced in the region by 235 percent, according to the company, and would meet low-carbon fuel standards that could potentially be adopted in Washington.

Soumas said combining both renewable and crude oil at the plant is necessary because investors aren’t interested in renewable fuels alone, and the crude oil component was too small to stand by itself.

“We can’t do one without the other at this point. The market won’t let us,” Soumas said.

An environmental group questioned how green the project truly is.

“I see the biofuels component as a public front for what is simply a new oil refinery on the Columbia River,” said Columbia Riverkeeper organizer Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky.

She also raised concerns about potential exclusion zones around ships, and about the cumulative impact of “far more unit trains” coming through the region.

Soumas said his company would only accept “stable, low vapor” crude removed of volatile components to lower the risks associated with crude-by-rail.

Port Commissioner Bob Bagaason said Wednesday that “there are so many positives” to Waterside’s proposed projects.

“If something this huge comes in, it’s going to change the port,” Bagaason said.

Columbian Staff Writer Eric Florip contributed to this report.