Port of Tacoma Begins Marketing Tract Anew

By John Gillie, September 13, 2013, The News Tribune

The Port of Tacoma, after watching a key future development project evaporate last week, already is remarketing the 96-acre site where that bulk liquids terminal would have been built.

The port plans to seek proposals from potential users for the site of the former Kaiser Aluminum smelter near the Blair Waterway on the Tacoma Tideflats.

Targa Sound Terminal last week terminated its lease on the vacant tract after seven months of exploratory study. The terminal operator had proposed spending $150 million to build a bulk liquids storage and distribution facility on the site. That terminal would have employed about 50 workers.

Targa will continue to expand and update its existing bulk liquids terminal on the Hylebos Waterway.

The tank farm primarily would have handled crude oil transported from Bakken formation wells in North Dakota by train to Tacoma.

While Targa has remained vague about why the project was terminated, refiner Phillips 66 shed more light on the project’s demise.

The Houston-based company said the refiner and Targa have terminated a 5-year agreement.

“Phillips 66 and Targa have reached a mutual agreement to end a five-year contract that began in August 2012 to provide rail unloading and barge loading services at Targa’s Tacoma Washington terminal,” Phillips said.

The original deal had called for crude oil delivered via train to the Tacoma facility to be loaded onto barges for transport to Phillips’ Ferndale refinery and to a Phillips refinery in California.

Phillips now says it will build its own rail unloading facility at its refinery.

Targa Sound Terminal President Troy Goodman said Thursday that the cancellation of the Phillips contract was one of several reasons why the terminal project didn’t move forward.

Port spokeswoman Tara Mattina said Targa wasn’t the only potential user to express interest in the site.

The land, which the port plans to lease, has been cleared of the old smelter structures, including a 500-foot-tall smokestack.

The port is so optimistic about the prospects of finding another user for the land that it plans to continue planning and building two new rail lead tracks to serve the area and to finish environmental remediation on one corner of the site.

The rail planning and construction has a price tag of $16 million. The cleanup likely will cost about $5 million. The port already has obtained a $4 million-plus grant to pay for part of the rail construction.

The Kaiser site has access to the Port’s EB1 ship terminal on the Blair Waterway. With the departure of Targa, the port has moved its break bulk loading and unloading operations from Terminal 7 north of East 11th St. to EB1.

A large vehicular transport ship was loading construction and farm equipment at EB1 on Tuesday morning.

Mattina said whatever user ends up leasing the Kaiser site could share EB1 with the break bulk shipping activity.

The port is looking at using the site for other bulk commodities. Coal is not likely to be among those commodities, Mattina said.

“I don’t think coal is high on our prospect list,” she said. “But I never say never.”

Coal exports have become a hot topic in the Northwest where at least four terminals are planned. Environmental groups are opposing their construction because of concerns about emissions from burning coal to create power in Asia.

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