HOUSTON Aug 15 Royal Dutch Shell Plc's
proposal to move by rail up to 60,000 barrels per day of North
American crude to its Washington state refinery will not have to
undergo a lengthy environmental review, local planners said this
The plan still awaits multiple permit approvals before
construction can start, but the Skagit County Planning and
Development Services division's decision that a full-fledged
environmental review is not required eliminates what could have
been a lengthy delay of up to a year.
Shell's project could now start up by early 2015, but the
company has not disclosed when.
"Construction timing will depend on when all of the permits
are approved. We are still too early in the overall permit
process to forecast when we will start construction," Shell
spokeswoman Destin Singleton said on Friday.
Shell is the last of the state's refiners to seek approvals
to move cheaper U.S. and Canadian oil by train to their plants
to replace more expensive imports. Tesoro Corp was the
first, starting shipments of up to 50,000 bpd to its 120,000 bpd
Anacortes refinery in September 2012. Shell's 145,000 bpd
refinery sits right next to the Tesoro plant.
U.S. Oil & Refining and BP Plc followed suit, and
Phillips 66 aims to start up its 30,000 bpd rail
offloading operation at its 101,000 bpd Ferndale plant in the
fourth quarter this year.
Those other projects did not have to undergo full
environmental reviews on top of required permitting.
Opponents concerned about crude by rail safety and
environmental impacts were unaware of previous projects when
they were in the permitting stages. But opponents took notice
when Shell initially filed for permits late last year.
Skagit County planners responded by requiring Shell to meet
some additional conditions, but the overall environmental impact
is not expected to be significant, eliminating the need for a
full review, they said in a notice posted on their website.
Those conditions include compliance with the latest U.S.
Department of Transportation rail and railcar safety
regulations, which are under review; agreement to help local
responders with railcar incidents off the refinery site; and
state rules regarding noise buffers and distances from great
blue heron colonies.
Singleton said Shell would meet all conditions set forth by
(Editing by Marguerita Choy)