Fossil Fuel TERMINAL-ogy, Explained!


Wow! It’s the Green Kid, Detective for 350pdx. © 2012 Joe Shlabotnik

Wow! It’s the Green Kid, Detective for 350pdx. © 2012 Joe Shlabotnik

What does it all mean?  Help me!

I looked in the dictionary.

It said that a ‘terminal’ marks the end of something: a rail line, a series, a branch, an electrical circuit.  So I said:

But we seem to be talking about something else here.  Maybe something more like a midpoint, somewhere between fracking the West and fueling Asia. Then I heard a voice at my shoulder:  “Hey, maybe I can help you.” Wow!  It’s the Green Kid, Detective for 350pdx.

She said:

You’re right about this middleman business.  The oil industry wants to use terminals along the west coast to take four kinds of fuel from trains and from pipelines, store them, sometimes convert them, and ship them on very big vessels to be burned in Asia.

First we’ve got coal that comes in on trains:

© 2011 Daniel Dancer; source Power Past Coal

© 2011 Daniel Dancer; source Power Past Coal

And then we’ve got oil.  Same deal, but it travels in closed metal units that have been known to explode.  And then we’ve got pipelines, like sewer pipes, but they carry natural gas to terminals where the gas is processed into liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be loaded onto VLGCs (very large gas carriers) for transport to Asia, where the liquid is turned into gas again.  There are about three dozen proposals for these throughout the northwest.  And there’s a proposal to process and ship propane, a particularly explosive form of natural gas, from the Port of Portland’s Terminal Six (T6). That’s the one you need to know about right now.


Here’s the deal.  Pembina Pipeline Company, a Canadian company that transports fossil fuels from the Alberta tar sands, want to build a huge export facility along the Portland waterfront.  Propane derived from fracked natural gas would come by rail to the Port of Portland, where it would be liquefied in two high pressure storage tanks, holding up to 30 million gallons.  The liquified gas would then be exported in huge gas transport ships to Asia at the rate of 552-828 million gallons per year. The electricity required for liquification would increase Portland’s CO2 emissions by 0.7%. The propane, when burned in Asia, would result in about 20,000 metric tons of additional CO2 going into the atmosphere, which the EPA estimates is equivalent to 4,255 cars. This does not count the carbon footprint of fracking, liquefying, transporting or shipping. (See

Gee, Kid Green.  That doesn’t seem like a great idea.  Who’d want to do that?

The American Petroleum Institute thinks it’s a great idea, as do several national and international energy corporations, because these are the folks who will earn large profits on these projects. Eric Milito, director of “upstream and industry operations” for the American Petroleum Institute, says, “There is a global race to build this infrastructure and to secure a competitive position in the international market.” Hm. Eric doesn’t mention what happens to the communities that will have explosive trains rolling through them, or whether he has children that will grow up still burning fossil fuels because the infrastructure is already built.

Is there any way to stop this from happening?

Right now Portland prohibits transporting hazardous materials through conservation zones, so Pembina needs to get an environmental code amendment from the city.  Mayor Hales has said their proposal is “good news” and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is drafting a code amendment. The Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission will hold a public hearing April 7th to consider the proposal. If they approve the amendment, it will move to the city council for a vote.

(Hearing: 1900 SW 4th Avenue Portland; 3-8PM. See Event Info at the bottom of this story)

Well, what can I do?

You can educate yourself by going to any one of several websites and newsletters:     (see p. 4, Conservation section for info about Pembina)

And then you can join people from a bunch of different organizations on April 7th to make our voices heard and let our city officials know that the community doesn’t want Portland to put its citizens at risk of explosions or add to greenhouse gas emissions by siting a huge facility for fossil fuel exports at the Port of Portland.  Citizen pressure has made a difference in the past and will also be crucial here.

As for the other terms:

Jordan Cove Energy Project:  According to Senator Wyden, this proposal is the first in line for consideration of natural gas terminals in Oregon.  A pipeline would deliver natural gas to a terminal in Coos Bay that would liquefy the gas for shipment to Asia.  They are seeking state permission to release 2.1 million metric tons of greenhouse gases annually, equivalent to 3% of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon in 2013.

Clatskanie:  Site of Global Partners’ Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery that has won permission from the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) to handle 1.8 billion gallons of crude oil and ethanol per year, a 3679% increase over past capacity.  ODT (Oregon Department of Transportation) has approved $5 million in subsidies for infrastructure “improvements” to make this possible.

Ambre Energy:  An Australian company that operates an export facility at Point Westward, OR, and has proposed coal export facilities in Boardman (Port of Morrow) and Longview, WA, to transfer train loads of coal to barges on the Columbia and then on larger ships to Asian Markets.  The state denied permission but Ambre and the Port of Morrow are appealing. Ambre recently sold interest in these projects to Resource Capital Fund of Colorado.

ArcLogistics: Owners of a terminal in Northwest Portland which has the capacity to store up to 1.5 billion barrels of oil being shipped by rail through the Columbia River Gorge.  There have been no public hearings regarding this site, which is being operated under a modified permit used by previous owners (producers of asphalt) and is currently undergoing construction that will increase the operating capacity significantly.

Morrow Pacific: Operators of the coal-fired power plant at Boardman, currently the largest producer of greenhouse gases in Oregon, but scheduled for closure in 2020.  Portland General Electric is building gas-fired generating stations in Boardman to replace it.

…more definitions to come!


Pembina Hearing – Tuesday, April 7th, and March 17th

The Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) will hold a public hearing on Pembina’s proposed propane export facility. This is a new date! The original date, March 17, is now a briefing meeting where Pembina will share new information about their project; public testimony is not allowed but we still need to pack the room with opposition! On April 7,  come testify in opposition or simply show your solidarity by wearing red and being in the audience! Sign up for public testimony begins at 2:30PM. Hearing location: 1900 SW 4th Avenue Portland; 3-8PM (sign up for 2-minutes of public testimony starting at 2:30PM).  More info at