Oregon coal export project seeks bids for new barges

The Morrow Pacific project, which is developing coal export capacity in the Pacific Northwest, said April 25 that it is seeking bids from local companies Gunderson and Vigor Industrial to create 20 enclosed barges.

These barges are valued at approximately $70m and their construction will create over 300 local construction jobs over the next two years. “We are committed to hiring local companies and look forward to doing business in Oregon,” said Clark Moseley, CEO of the Morrow Pacific project. “This is the first of several bids. Over the next two years the Morrow Pacific project will invest over $150,000,000 in Oregon.”

“This bid is an opportunity for Gunderson and Portland’s working waterfront and an investment that would put Oregonians back to work,” said Bill Furman, CEO of the Greenbrier Companies, the parent company of Gunderson.

“A project of this size would create hundreds of good jobs for welders, fabricators and others,” added Frank Foti, CEO of Vigor Industrial. “These industrial jobs are crucial to strengthening our communities, our state and our nation. Vigor and our new-build US Fab unit look forward to responding to the bid.”

The project has option agreements with both the Port of Morrow and Port of St. Helens, and has submitted permits to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of State Lands. The Morrow Pacific project will ship low-sulfur coal by rail from the Powder River Basin to an enclosed warehouse at the Port of Morrow. From there, enclosed barges will move the coal to the Port Westward Industrial Park at the Port of St. Helens. An enclosed transloader will then transfer the coal from barges to oceangoing vessels bound for Asian trading allies, such as Japan, South Korea or Taiwan. Between the Port of Morrow facility until the coal arrives in Asia, there will be no visible coal and little, if any, coal dust, the developer said.

This is one of several port facilities being developed in the states of Washington and Oregon to handle increased exports of PRB and other western coals into the booming Pacific Rim market. Some of that coal is currently being railed to existing export terminals in British Columbia. The Union Pacific and Kansas City Southern railroads are also working to develop coal export capacity on Mexico’s West Coast, which in part would be an alternative as the Pacific Northwest ports run into environmental opposition and potentially lengthy project delays. California is considered pretty much a non-starter for any major coal export projects due to its generally anti-coal stance.

The Morrow Pacific project is backed by Ambre Energy, an Australian company that recently bought shares in the Decker coal mine in Montana and the Black Butte coal mine in Wyoming. “When the project begins operation, Ambre anticipates shipping 3.5 million metric tons of coal per year to trade allies such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan,” said the project website. “The overall capacity of the Morrow Pacific project is 8 million metric tons per year.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.