Port of Longview working with company on oil refinery proposal, first on Columbia River

Energy Associated Press

The Port of Longview says it's working with an energy company on a proposal for a new crude oil refinery, the first such facility on the Columbia River.

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Port documents released Wednesday show Riverside Energy LLC last summer sought to build the refinery and a unit train rail loop to receive oil-by-rail shipments from the Bakken region in North Dakota.

The documents were obtained as part of a records request by the environmental advocacy group Columbia Riverkeeper.

Port of Longview spokeswoman Ashley Helenberg said that particular proposal is now "dormant," but port officials are still working with the company and expect a new plan.

Riverside Energy officials did not return repeated calls for comment.

According to the company's previous proposal, the refinery would process up to 30,000 barrels per day into diesel, gasoline and jet fuel and would ship those fuels in supertankers down the Columbia to regional and California markets. The refinery would receive 10 unit trains per month, or one every 3 days; a unit train has 100 to 120 cars.

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According to the documents, the refinery would have created more than 150 permanent jobs, with an average annual wage of $75,000.

Columbia Riverkeeper said if a refinery is built in Longview, it would be the first on the West Coast in over 25 years, and the sixth refinery in Washington state. Longview is 50 miles north of Portland.

The group said oil refineries are hazardous to human health and dangerous because of frequent accidents. An explosion at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington, in 2010 killed seven workers.

Refineries also attract more oil-by-rail, which is highly volatile, said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper. Crude oil trains in North America have exploded a dozen times in the past two years, including an explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec.

"Oil refineries are some of the most toxic and polluting industries you can imagine, and they've wreaked havoc on our communities," VandenHeuvel said.

But Port officials said the refinery is one of many energy-related projects proposed on the Columbia River.

"This is what we do — Washington's ports were designed as our communities' business agents to evaluate opportunities for economic growth," the Port's Chief Executive Officer Geir Kalhagen said in a statement.

It's unclear whether a refinery at the Port of Longview would serve the existing oil-by-rail terminal at Port Westward, just 10 miles from the proposed Longview site. Another oil-by-rail terminal also is proposed on the Columbia River at the Port of Vancouver just across from Portland.