Tesoro moves forward on plans for product diversification

Tesoro Anacortes Refinery Vice President James Tangaro (left) and spokesman Matt Gill stand in front of an area slated for xylene manufacturing in this file photo.

Skagit County reached no new conclusions in the final environmental impact statement it released Monday for a project proposed at the Tesoro Anacortes Refinery at March Point.

Skagit County Planning and Development Services has determined the project would have no significant environmental impacts that would require mitigation.

The environmental impact statement, or EIS, completed by the county evaluates the potential environmental impacts the refinery’s proposed project could have and recommends ways to avoid or limit those impacts.

Tesoro’s proposal, called the Clean Products Upgrade Project, would involve equipment upgrades and building new equipment in order to reduce the sulfur content of its fuels and to extract the chemical compound xylene during the refining process. The xylene would be shipped overseas for use in manufacturing plastics, polyesters and other materials.

The production of up to 15,000 barrels of xylene per day would result in an additional five vessels visiting the refinery each month, according to project documents. The refinery’s barrels-per-day refining capacity would not change.

Now that the EIS is complete, permits could be issued for the refinery project as early as July 17, according to the document. If permits are received, construction of the project could begin this year.

Construction would involve building a new steam boiler, several storage tanks and extending a natural gas pipeline to the refinery dock. It would also require widening the access road to the refinery off of North Texas Road, receiving up to 50 additional trucks at the refinery per day and having between 190 and 270 temporary construction workers on site.

Operation of the new equipment would bring 20 new full-time staff members to the refinery.

The refinery needs permits from several local, state and federal agencies agencies to proceed, according to the EIS.

Those agencies may use the EIS to guide their decisions about permits.

The Northwest Clean Air Agency is in the process of reviewing air permit applications for the project.

Refinery officials have said the upgrade is needed to comply with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirement to begin reducing sulfur emissions from gasoline this year.

Reducing sulfur emissions is expected to improve health nationwide by reducing deaths, hospital visits and asthma attacks related to air quality issues, according to the EIS.

Several who spoke at an April 17 open house about the proposal said while they like the idea of reducing sulfur emissions, they are concerned about the risks storing xylene at March Point and shipping it through the Salish Sea may pose to workers, surrounding communities and the environment.

The potential for a major marine spill remains the only significant environmental impact of the project, according to the final EIS.

Since the likelihood of a major spill is low, Skagit County concluded that existing permit requirements, safety procedures and emergency response plans are adequate to address the potential impact.

The draft EIS was released March 23, and public comments were accepted through May 8.

During that time, Skagit County received 7,675 comments, according to the EIS web page.

The final EIS includes 1,176 pages of comments and responses.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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