Pasco ethanol facility expands capacity

Tanks will allow Tidewater Terminal Co. to deliver ethanol-petroleum throughout region

A $12.5 million ethanol facility is coming online in August at the Tidewater Terminal Co. in Pasco.

“Right now we’re going through our testing phase to make sure all our set points are where they need to be,” said Mark Davis, general manager of Tidewater.

The testing is being done on the pump system created for two massive tanks, standing nearly 60 feet tall and 90 feet in diameter at 671 Tank Farm Road.

Each can hold 65,000 barrels of liquid. They will be used for storing ethanol and petroleum, and then blending the two for use as fuel around the region.

“We’re a fuel station for fuel stations,” said Nigel Stevenson, Tidewater’s capital projects manager. “We fill up fuel trucks the way you’d fill up your car at Costco or 7-Eleven.” The blended fuel is required under a state mandate for biofuel to produce cleaner emissions.

The new Snake River Terminal Ethanol Facility includes 720-foot long unloading and loading racks to fill train cars.

“It’s a fairly automated system,” Davis said. “You hook the cars up and hit the button and the pumps slowly ramp up and pump it into the tank, and when it’s done, you just reverse the process.”

The 128-acre terminal was already capable of blending biofuel but not at the capacity the new facility will allow.

“We bring 96 cars in on a unit train,” Davis said. “That unit train will land here and we’ll discharge it in 24 hours now. It used to take six days instead of one day.”

Construction on the project began last summer.

“Almost all of that money was spent using local contractors with local materials and local suppliers. A very large part of that money stayed here in the community. It gives us an opportunity to increase employment at Tidewater here as well,” Davis said.

The company employs 36 people at the terminal, but Davis doesn’t know how many new terminal operators will be needed to run the new facility. “I’d be throwing darts,” he said.

Davis said the positions will be “good-paying” jobs with salaries north of $25 an hour.

“We have an idea of how the market’s going to respond, but if it responds in a really positive way, we could be looking for more people,” he said.

Founded in 1952, Tidewater also operates barge lines that run along the local rivers as far west as Astoria, Oregon. It ships dry products like wheat, wood chips and corn, and liquid products like fertilizer and petroleum. It has facilities in Pasco and Umatilla.

“For all intents and purposes, it’s like two separate companies. One is the barge line and the other is the terminal,” Davis said.

The increased capacity for ethanol and petroleum storage at the Pasco terminal was built to meet market demand. Straight, denatured ethanol also can be dispatched by the terminal for sale in other markets.

A ribbon-cutting celebration is set for Aug. 27 at the new facility.

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