Analysis: Oil-by-rail terminal would be largest

VANCOUVER, Wash. — A proposed oil terminal in Vancouver, Washington, would handle more crude transported by rail than any single facility in the U.S. when running at full capacity, according to an analysis by The Columbian newspaper.

Vancouver Energy, a joint venture by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos., would handle an average of 360,000 barrels of oil per day, or up to four trains daily.

“On paper, it’s the biggest facility of that type,” said Sandy Fielden, director of energy analytics for Texas-based consultant RBN Energy. “As far as I’m aware, there’s not an existing terminal that handles that type of capacity.”

Dozens of facilities nationwide handle oil transported on rail cars. Other facilities may process more oil or have more storage capacity, but the proposed Vancouver project appears to surpass others in terms of the volume of oil arriving or leaving strictly by rail, The Columbian reported.

Opponents have raised concerns about the risk of oil spills, derailments and other dangers.

Two to three loaded oil trains per day already rolled through Clark County on the way to existing West Coast facilities. About 17 million barrels of crude moved through Washington by rail last year, according to a state report released last month. By 2015, the amount could rise to more than 68 million barrels.

The Vancouver Energy project is proposed as a trans-loading terminal that would transfer crude from trains to marine vessels on the Columbia River. It will be a commercial-scale facility capable of serving several customers, Tesoro spokeswoman Jennifer Minx told the newspaper in an email.

Constructing one large facility instead of several smaller terminals allows emergency response equipment to be concentrated in the “unlikely” case of an accident, Minx said.

The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council is reviewing the project.

Tesoro and Savage Cos. have said they don’t expect to move 360,000 barrels per day from the start. It will likely receive one to two trains daily at first and then build out to full capacity.

“It is definitely about the biggest terminal that’s been proposed,” Fielden said. “Whether or how quickly they’ll get up to that rate to me is questionable.”

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