Shell Anacortes Refinery Project

UPDATE: Shell Puget Sound Refinery has decided to call off the rail project in Anacortes. 


Shell Anacortes Refinery Project

Shell Proposes to enlarge its Anacortes Refinery with an additional rail spur on March Point Peninsula where the refinery is currently located. This rail spur would allow an increase in train traffic to replace some of the bulk ship traffic from Alaska. According to the summary of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS):

Each unit train arriving at the rail unloading facility would carry approximately 60,000 to 70,000 barrels of crude oil. The facility would receive six unit trains per week, with each train carrying up to 102 tank cars. The facility has been designed to receive 360,000 to 420,000 barrels of crude oil by rail per week.

In other words, the project would involve six additional trains to come to the facility and leave; much of the oil would be Bakken crude and would be highly volatile (because the heavy crude has to be “lightened” with volatile solvents). There are major concerns about oil train accidents along the routes which include the Columbia Gorge, Puget Sound and the train tunnel under downtown Seattle.

In addition to the issues of train traffic, the draft EIS also addresses climate change. As is typical, however, the issue is finessed by not evaluating the emissions from the end use of petroleum products. To be fair, this is uncertain – but the summary of the draft EIS does project some rather major effects of the train traffic:

The proposed project would not increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the Shell PSR. Emissions resulting from the refinement and consumption of products from the Shell PSR were not assessed because the refinery’s operating capacity would not change with implementation of the proposed project. The crude oil shipped to the proposed unloading facility would replace deliveries from the Alaska North Slope currently delivered via marine vessel. The transport of crude oil from the mid-continent area would result in a 93-percent increase of GHG emissions resulting from changing delivery of oil from tanker ships to rail.

In other words, the increased train traffic would almost double GHG emissions from transporting the crude oil to the refinery. This is because train traffic is less efficient in transporting large quantities of crude oil than marine traffic. There is a tradeoff – marine vessels can pollute much larger areas with an accident such as the Exxon Valdez than trains such as the Mosier, Oregon accident. But the large number of trains – six a week – mean a higher possibility of accidents.


Hearings will be held on the draft EIS at the following locations next month:

November 12, 2016 | Doors open at 9:30 a.m.
Verbal comment sessions held 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Open house and verbal comment session end at 4:00 p.m.
Anacortes Senior Center
1701 22nd Street, Anacortes, WA 98221

November 16, 2016| Doors open at 1:30 p.m.
Verbal comment sessions held 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Open house and verbal comment session end at 8:00 pm
Skagit Valley College, McIntyre Hall
2501 E. College Way, Mount Vernon, WA 98273

November 19, 2016 | Doors open at 9:30 am
Verbal comment sessions held 10:00 am – 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Open house and verbal comment session end at 4:00 p.m.
Washington State Convention Center 
705 Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98101

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