ANACORTES — Tesoro’s Anacortes refinery is looking to the future of crude oil with a dedication Thursday afternoon of its recently finished Anacortes Rail Offloading Facility.

The facility received the first of many 100-unit car trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken formation Sept. 4, following an estimated $60 million construction project that commenced in September.

In a speech during the ceremony, Tesoro Chief Executive Officer Greg Goff said the rail yard will be a major asset for the refinery, helping it tap into a Bakken formation where production has increased more than 85 percent since last June, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“By 2020, the U.S. will be the biggest crude oil producer in the world because of crude from Bakken,” Goff said.

Tesoro Refinery Manager Dan Cameron said Bakken Shale crude is less expensive than oil bought from Alaska’s North Slope or on the global commodity market, helping to lower costs for the Anacortes refinery.

“The refining business is really competitive. We don’t have a lot of margin,” Cameron said.

The rail facility is on the west side of the refinery and features four tracks approximately 4,100 feet long. The facility has the capacity to offload up to 50,000 barrels of crude oil per day, nearly half of the refinery’s 120,000 barrel processing capacity.

Cameron said the rail yard will not increase the refinery’s capacity but diversify its inputs. Crude also comes by pipeline from Canada and by ship from Alaska’s North Slope and other world suppliers.

The rail facility will support 35 new full-time contract jobs, Cameron said.

The construction project for the facility utilized 850,000 tons of material sourced from five local quarries. At the peak of activity during the week of April 9, more than 100 trucks hauled 750 loads per day, including a backhaul of 126,000 tons of soil spoils to quarry sites — setting an unconfirmed record for haul volume over public infrastructure, according to Tesoro.

Goff said one of the chief successes of the project was making rail efficient for transporting oil.

“The amazing thing is, we’re able to do it cost-effectively, as opposed to pipelines or by ship,” Goff said.

The Tesoro facility will be the first in the Pacific Northwest to capture Bakken supply by rail, though Reuters reported in August that similar projects are in the works for refineries in Ferndale and Blaine. According to the report, the offloading facility is expected to be at full capacity by year’s end and will be able to host a unit train six out of seven days a week.

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