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Hearing set on Calumet oil terminal repair

SUPERIOR, Wis. — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has set a public meeting on a key aspect of Calumet Oil’s proposed oil-shipping terminal on Superior’s harborfront.

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The terminal, first proposed in January, would be the first major oil-shipping terminal on Lake Superior in recent decades. It would transfer oil from North Dakota and western Canada pipelines to tankers to be shipped to eastern oil refineries.

The effort would help alleviate a shortage of shipping capacity for western oil moving east.

So far, Calumet officials say they still don’t have a customer to buy the oil. But the plan always has been moving ahead, assuming a customer, likely on the eastern Great Lakes or East Coast, might be found.

“We’ll keep plugging away on the permits and then go back to customers and see who might be interested in a partnership,” Kollin Schade, manager of the Calumet’s Superior refinery, said Monday.

Right now, there is more production capacity in western Canada and North Dakota’s Bakken oilfields than there is capacity to move it to markets. Plans are in the works for several new pipelines, and Calumet officials have said shipping the oil on the Great Lakes probably would be just a temporary solution until the pipelines are finished.

Huge amounts of oil also have been moving by rail in recent months, including through a new Calumet rail terminal in Superior.

The DNR’s public meeting is set for Tuesday at the Superior Public Library from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. and will focus on the dock repair proposed for the site, not the merits of the oil terminal. The agenda includes a presentation by the DNR as well as from Elkhorn Industries, which owns the property and has applied for a permit to conduct work on 703 feet of old dock in the harbor.

The DNR meeting also has a time for public comments. Several environmental groups are expected to have representatives at the meeting after expressing concern that a Lake Superior oil spill could have devastating consequences.

The Calumet plan would cost up to $30 million and put the facility at the former Georgia Pacific site on the harborfront. The terminal would employ five to 15 people during the open-water shipping season, Calumet officials said last winter.

The terminal, as proposed, could load about one tanker or barge every four days. Each tanker holds about 77,000 barrels (3.2 million gallons) of crude oil; each barge about 110,000 barrels (4.6 million gallons).

Shipping large amounts of oil and gas on the Great Lakes is not a new idea — carbon-based fuel has moved on the Great Lakes since at least the 1880s, as recently as 1992 in Superior, and currently is a major cargo in and out of other ports on the lakes.

The project would have to obtain several permits for dredging, pier repairs, storage tanks and vapor emissions. Steve LaValley, water management specialist for the Wisconsin DNR, said the public comment period for a proposed dredging permit for the site already has concluded without a major issue.

There’s already a small but viable pipeline from the refinery that runs north along Hill Avenue to the waterfront. The 6-inch, 1950s-vintage pipe needs some repairs but is still in good shape and is permitted to move oil.

Calumet would need permission to extend that line 1,500 feet to the Elkhorn docking site, where Calumet would build two 150,000-barrel storage tanks to hold oil to be loaded onto tankers or barges. The tanks would be surrounded by a dike capable of holding all the contents if they should somehow spill. The company also would be required to have oil-containing booms to deploy if oil spilled in the bay.

Elkhorn is owned by Superior trucking company owner Jeff Foster.

Written comments on Elkhorn’s proposed waterfront improvements can be submitted until Dec. 6 to Steven.LaValley@wisconsin.g


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