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Jan. 17, 2022

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NuStar’s ethanol plans close to approval

Significant adverse impacts on environment not probable, initial city of Vancouver review finds

By , Columbian Business Reporter

The city of Vancouver is poised to approve NuStar Energy’s plans to handle ethanol at its two Port of Vancouver terminals.

“Based on the initial review of the proposed project, the city of Vancouver … (finds) the project will not create probable significant adverse environmental impacts,” the city wrote in a public notice dated July 11.

The public will have until July 25 to comment on the proposal.

NuStar wants to receive ethanol, a plant-based renewable fuel, by rail and cargo ship at its terminals at 2565 N.W. Harborside Drive and 5420 N.W. Fruit Valley Road. The company plans to retrofit a pair of 4.2 million-gallon storage tanks to handle the fuel, according to plans submitted to the city. One of those tanks currently stores jet fuel, while another previously handled the natural gas-based fuel methanol and has been empty since 2012.

NuStar plans to export the ethanol by ship or move it by truck regionally.

The company expects to handle about 32 rail cars and 10 to 20 truckloads of ethanol per day. It does not expect the proposal to increase rail or truck traffic, as it will displace other shipments and be similar in scope to its methanol operations. The company will need to work with the Vancouver Fire Department to obtain new safety approvals.

“Over the years, the company has responded to a number of market-driven conditions and new customer opportunities, which have resulted in changes in the commodities it handles at the Port of Vancouver,” NuStar wrote in its planning document.  “Often, the driver of the market conditions may be regulatory in nature, which is the case for the proposed project.”

The San Antonio-based company has been a port tenant since 2006. Since then, NuStar Energy and its roughly 25 local employees have handled methanol, jet fuel, antifreeze and other petroleum and bulk products in Vancouver.

NuStar did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

The company has also floated plans to bring 22,000 barrels of crude oil per day through its facilities, though that proposal has stalled on the requirement to draft an environmental impact statement, an expensive and time-consuming hurdle.

Vancouver could require such a process for the ethanol plan, though the July 11 notice makes that seem unlikely.

Even if the company starts handling ethanol, “this doesn’t do anything to the crude oil proposal,” said senior city planner Jon Wagner

.The city’s ban on crude oil facilities handling 50,000 barrels or less daily, passed Monday night, is also expected to have no effect, because the application has already been processed.

As for handling ethanol at the NuStar terminals, Wagner said: “The fire department didn’t seem to have any issues with this one.”

Comments on the project are due to Wagner by 4 p.m. Monday at or by mail to Community & Economic Development Dept., PO Box 1995, Vancouver, WA 98668. Plans are available at City Hall.

Columbian Business Reporter