Imperium Renewables has become the second company to clear an initial environmental review hurdle for a plan to store and ship crude oil from Grays Harbor.
The company received what is known as a Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance under the State Environmental Protection Act, meaning the Department of Ecology and the City of Hoquiam agreed that Imperium’s proposed mitigation efforts would make up for any environmental impacts. The two entities have been co-lead agencies on the review.
The finding is a small but important step in the progress of Imperium’s project. The environmental checklist and related documents will be used in considering future permits, but the finding on its own doesn’t constitute permit approval.
The public and government agencies are now allowed to comment on the decision. Imperium has already requested the comment period be extended from 15 days to 30, allowing written comment through June. 3. No reason was given, although Westway Terminals, another company with fuel storage operations at the Port of Grays Harbor, also extended its comment period. About 40 comments were received on that project.
“That’s probably more comment than we’ve ever had for any projects,” Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay noted.
The project is similar in total volume to the one proposed by Westway, which recently received its own determination of non-significance. Imperium plans to add nine tanks, each slightly smaller than Westway’s four, for a total storage capacity of 720,000 barrels, or 30.24 million gallons. Westway’s proposal adds 800,000 barrels, or 33.6 million gallons, of additional liquid storage.
A third proposal from U.S. Development Group, LLC is still likely several months away from beginning its permitting process. It’s the only company not already established at the Port of Grays Harbor, but it has been granted a lease option for a site at Terminal 3 near the Bowerman Field airport in Hoquiam.
The crude oil would arrive by rail car and be shipped to domestic refiners on vessels. According to its reports, Imperium expects as many as 730 additional trains per year, or two 105-car trains per day, one loaded, one empty. In comparison, Westway’s proposal estimates as many as 243 trains per year.
More work on mitigating traffic impacts with the increased rail traffic around the three potential projects is still ahead, but the Imperium proposal does note several measures that site would use, including scheduling trains during non-rush hours as often as possible, as well as a Rail Transportation Impact Analysis identifying issues with rail traffic and specific improvements or mitigations.
Imperium also estimates it may have as many as 400 ship transits per year, compared to Westway’s estimate of 120.
The two projects would bring total vessel transits to 688 per year, up from 168 in 2012, and train transits to 1,703 from 730 in 2012.
Shay said Imperium likely won’t use all the capacity its hoping to get permits for, but is trying to plan for the future.
“A lot of these facilities, they’re trying to get contracts with customers, so if they get enough contracts to do nine tanks they will,” Shay said.
Imperium can already store vegetable oil, biodiesel, methanol, diesel and petroleum products in its existing tanks. It’s applying for permits to also store used cooking oil, waste vegetable oil, animal fats, naphtha, gasoline, vacuum gas oil, jet fuel, No. 2 and 6 fuel oil, kerosene, crude oil, renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel in the new tanks.
“They want to make sure as they go through their expansion project, they’re permitted, whether it’s jet fuel or continuing to store crude or whatever it can do,” Shay said.
Imperium’s project is not expected to interfere with other uses of Grays Harbor, and is subject to the same safety protocols and spill response plan requirements as Westway.
The SEPA documents are available at the city’s website, www.cityofhoquiam.com, or at City Hall, 609 8th St. Comments may be submitted in writing to City Hall or by email to Shay at firstname.lastname@example.org.