Renewable Energy Group, the Iowa company that bought Imperium Renewables’ big biodiesel facility last summer, says its plans at the Grays Harbor plant “do not include handling crude oil.”

Share story

The new owner of the mammoth Grays Harbor biodiesel plant has pulled the plug on the controversial idea of using the facility to ship U.S. crude oil unloaded from trains.

Renewable Energy Group (REG), the Iowa company that bought nearly all the assets of Imperium Renewables last summer, said in a document filed with state regulators that “its future plans at Grays Harbor do not include handling crude oil.”

The document was filed in late November as comment on a draft environmental-impact statement. A REG spokesman confirmed the decision Wednesday.

Nevertheless, the company is still pursuing an expansion at the site that would allow it to store other commodities.

This week, save 75% on select subscriptions.

Imperium’s original bid to ship crude came amid a tough market for the renewable fuels that had inspired the facility’s construction in 2007.

The biofuel frenzy was soon overwhelmed by the financial crisis, and later sidelined by growing production of domestic oil in the U.S. interior.

A significant amount of that crude, produced in North Dakota, has been finding its way to the Pacific Northwest, carried by train.

It’s used by refineries here, but Pacific Northwest ports are also an ideal place to ship the crude to refineries in Alaska and California — or even abroad, now that the U.S. has reauthorized domestic-crude exports for the first time since the 1970s.

Imperium had sought to jump on that bandwagon before it was sold.

Abandoning the oil-shipping component, which faced strong opposition and tough scrutiny, may simplify REG’s effort to secure approval for the rest of the expansion.

There are two other shipping terminals still being proposed in Vancouver, Wash., including a major facility by Texas-based Tesoro. These efforts have drawn fire from those who oppose increased shipments of crude by rail, either for environmental or safety reasons.

Explosions caused by derailed oil trains across the U.S. and Canada have triggered concern among regulators and activists.

“We are pleased that REG has listened to the people and made this decision. Now we need to continue our fight to convince the other proponents that it is time to follow this lead and abandon their risky projects to bring crude oil to Grays Harbor,” said R.D. Grunbaum, a member of the Stand Up To Oil campaign and Citizens for Clean Harbor, in a news statement.