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Crude Oil Tankers in the Twin Ports?

Posted at: 01/28/2013 7:00 PM
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

The oil boom in North Dakota could soon be spreading to the Northland. Now the Calumet Refinery in Superior wants to ship oil on Lake Superior.

It has been decades since any tankers have stopped in the Twin Ports, but the Calumet Refinery in Superior wants to bring them back to the harbor.

The Calumet Refinery processes oil from Canada and the Bakken Fields of North Dakota. The company said so much crude is coming in that the pipeline cannot send it out fast enough.

That has Plant Manager Dave Podratz looking to the water.

“Obviously the most efficient way to move it, if you can't move it by pipeline, is by tanker. You look at what goes on in the Twin Ports today. They bring coal in by rail cars, load it onto boats and send it on,” Podratz said.

He said there is a demand for the oil, but he is still looking for customers before building a new dock. Podratz said it could mean up to 15 new jobs if it becomes a reality.

And of course there are the ships. Adele Yorde is the public relations manager for the Duluth Seaway Authority. She said petroleum was shipped out of the Twin Ports for about a century, but the last barge left the harbor 20 years ago.

“At one time we were the second largest in the Great Lakes Basin for moving it,” Yorde said.

Calumet would only bring in a few ships a year, but it still has the Port Authority excited.

“A new cargo like this, a renewed cargo if you will, of petroleum moving out it would be a great add-on to the port,” Yorde said.

Tankers aren't floating in the harbor just yet, but you might see them soon if the oil keeps flowing out west.

Podratz said some may worry about the environmental implications of shipping crude oil, but he said the Coast Guard would have to approve the project before Calumet could move forward.