Port courts Canadian biofuels company for Port Westward
The Port of St. Helens is pursuing a potential lease agreement with a biofuels company poised to produce synthetic jet fuel.
Port staff, along with Democratic Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, Columbia County Commissioner Alex Tardif and representatives from Boeing, met with staff from Enerkem — a Canada-based biofuels company looking to expand its operations.
While talks were preliminary, port officials say the company is interested in developing a fuel plant in Clatskanie on land the port is trying to rezone for an expansion of Port Westward. The company converts municipal solid waste into fuel sources.
"They love the location of the site, and its proximity to Portland and Seattle," Doug Hayes, executive director of the Port, told commissioners Wednesday, June 13. "This is a foot in the door, from their perspective."
Enerkem confirmed Wednesday that they did visit Port of St. Helens property, but their expansion efforts are currently focused on the East Coast.
"Enerkem is interested by the US market and we are engaged in discussions with potential partners and municipalities mainly on the East Coast at this time," Pierre Boisseau, senior director of communications and marketing for Enerkem, stated by email. "On the West Coast, including the state of Oregon, we are at the very early stage of exploring potential opportunities."
Boisseau noted his company did visit port property, but has not initiated any formal discussions about a potential lease, "as we continue to analyze the market potential across western USA."
If the project materializes, it's estimated to create hundreds of construction jobs, then up to 100 permanent jobs for on-site workers.
Enerkem — a company brought to the port's attention by Deer Island resident Tammy Maygra — is one of a few companies the port is in talks with for potential projects on property that has been in legal limbo for years. The agency is currently awaiting the outcome of an appeal to a county decision to grant a permit for rezoning and map amendment on 837 acres in Clatskanie near the existing parameters of Port Westward Industrial Park. If the rezone and Port Westward expansion is ultimately struck down and doesn't move forward, Hayes said the Port of St. Helens can still apply to have specific sections of property rezoned for industrial use.