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Port of Longview announced Tuesday that it is negotiating with Riverside Refining to bring an $800 million oil refinery to Longview that would create 150 permanent jobs.

Riverside Refining C.E.O Lou Soumas said his Houston-based company picked Longview because of its river access, rail lines and because “the town has its roots in industry and will support properly planned projects.”

Riverside Refining, a subsidiary of Waterside Energy, Inc., said its refinery would process 45,000 barrels a day, of which 30,000 barrels would be crude oil and 15,000 barrels would be used cooking oil, according to a March 18 letter from Riverside to the State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) and the governor’s office. EFSEC would be the permitting agency for the project.

In the letter, Riverside said it expects the refinery to generate daily about 1,600 barrels of liquid petroleum gas, 9,800 barrels of gasoline, 15,300 barrels of diesel/jet fuel and 4,900 barrels of kerosene.

Riverside estimated that the refinery would take two years to build and create 400 construction jobs.

“It’s a community project. We’re not interested in bringing in people from outside the community to work there. We want people with roots in Longview,” Soumas said. He added that Riverside is open to working with building trade unions for the construction of the refinery, and to working the dockworkers’ union for handling trains and cargo.

ILWU Local 21 president Jason Lundquist said the union doesn’t have enough information to either endorse or oppose the refinery. Candidates running to replace Commissioner Darold Dietz this fall also are looking for more information.

“Riverside is going to be a controversial topic, and no one can dispute that. However, they should get a fair shake,” said candidate Jeff Wilson. “The process must be protected. … The trick is to involve the public and make sure it is fully engaged.”

Candidate Tony Filippello said it’s important to “bring every option to the table” and to not write off any project from the get-go. He acknowledged that there will be environmental and safety questions, and he asked, “Is it going to actually bring the amount of jobs we want?”

The 58-acre facility would take shipment of one unit train every two or three days, according to Riverside. The project would include $60 million in rail work to enable the company to unload trains in under 12 hours. Crude oil would be shipped from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, and other oil supplies would be sourced internationally.

Once processed, the fuel would be stored in two tanks, the size and location of which are undetermined, Soumas said.

The refinery would use 35 acres of port property located on the old warehouse complex. The remaining 23 to 25 acres would be on vacant land currently owned by Ferns America, LLC. Finished fuel product would be transported by an overhead pipeline to Berth 1 and loaded onto barges for shipment to local and regional markets.

The project already faces opposition from environmental groups, including Portland-based Columbia Riverkeeper.

“We have the same concerns we have about all crude-by-rail projects on the Columbia River,” Riverkeeper spokesman Miles Johnson said by phone Tuesday. “We’re concerned about oil trains going through communities all along the Gorge and the potential for accidents and crude oil spills.”

In addition, he said, the group has air pollution concerns “There’s a very dangerous synergy of oil train issues and air pollution,” Johnson said.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, oil refineries can emit sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, benzene, hydrogen cyanide, greenhouse gases and other pollutants .

When it comes to shipping crude oil by rail, Soumas knows the project will face opposition.

“For certain groups, the crude-by-rail element is either their concern or their battle cry. In some ways we don’t blame them,” Soumas said.

He said crude oil shipments from the Bakken fields have contained oil with too high of a vapor pressure in the tank cars. Riverside, Soumas said, will only accept crude oil shipped below a certain pressure. Soumas also said new, safer cars would be in use by the time the Riverside project is operating.

Soumas said the new refinery would be much cleaner than older refineries.

“Federal and state clean air standards continue to improve, in conjunction with what the industry is doing. New refineries don’t put out those emissions any more.”

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The Daily News, Longview, Wash.

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