Oregon agency puts out draft permits for Ambre coal export project

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality plans a July 9 hearing, which is likely to be a vocal one, on draft air and water quality permits for the planned Coyote Island Terminal LLC rail-to-barge coal export facility.

The company proposes to construct and operate an enclosed coal bulk transfer facility to be located at the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Ore. Other state, local or federal, permits/certifications may apply to this facility, the DEQ noted in a May 31 public notice.

The applicant proposes to operate a coal transfer station where up to 8,800,000 tons per year of sub-bituminous coal would arrive by railcar and be transferred to barges on the Columbia River. The DEQ regulates the following components of the facility under the proposed air permit: loaded railcars inside the facility, an indoor rotary railcar unloading station, enclosed transfer conveyor system with enclosed conveyors, three enclosed coal storage buildings and an enclosed telescoping loading chute.

The water pollution control facilities permit would regulate wastewater resulting from several dust suppression systems. These include dust extractors, fogging sprayers and wash-down systems.

This is one a handful of coal export projects proposed in Washington state and Oregon that have incited a major backlash from national and state environmental groups, and some local citizens. Other local residents see these projects as good job creation venues.

Coyote Island Terminal is a project company of Australia-based Ambre Energy, which in the last couple of years has gotten into the U.S. coal production business, as well. Ambre said on its website that the barges of coal loaded at the Coyote Island facility will move to the Port Westward Industrial Park for transloading to ship. It said that Stage 1 of this project, called the Morrow Pacific project, covers 3.5 million metric tons per year and that Stage 2 covers 8 million metric tons per year of coal handling.

“At the publicly owned Port of Morrow located 272 miles up the Columbia River near Boardman, Oregon, a wholly owned Ambre Energy subsidiary will construct Coyote Island Terminal,” said the Ambre website. “The terminal will be capable of unloading coal from incoming trains using the Port of Morrow’s existing rail loop. The coal will be stored in covered warehouses before being barged 219 miles downriver to a second site at Port Westward.”

The website continued: “This site is an existing dock at the Port Westward Industrial Park, also located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River and approximately 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean. It is capable of receiving ocean-going vessels up to Panamax class. The coal in the barges arriving from Coyote Island Terminal will be transloaded directly onto ships berthed at the Port Westward dock. The ships will be loaded via a state-of-the-art, fully enclosed, floating transloading facility designed specifically for Ambre Energy.”

A Union Pacific rail line, also historically used by the BNSF Railway, provides the Port of Morrow with a direct rail link to coal mines in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, including Ambre’s mining operations at Decker in Montana and Black Butte in Wyoming, the website noted.

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.