(Updates with quotes, details on project and review process)
By Kristen Hays
HOUSTON, May 8 (Reuters) - Tesoro Corp’s proposed railport project in Washington state will likely be pushed to next year as it undergoes a “painfully slow” government review process, the chief executive of the independent oil refiner told analysts on Friday.
The $190 million, 360,000-barrels-per-day project would be the biggest in the United States, moving U.S. and Canadian oil via rail to the Port of Vancouver where it would be loaded onto vessels to supply West Coast refineries - mainly in California.
Tesoro originally had hoped to begin operations in late 2014, and then pushed initial startup to mid-2015. Tesoro CEO Greg Goff said on Friday that “something could happen in the first part of 2016.”
“We’re absolutely committed to the project. We believe it will be successful and we just have to keep focused,” Goff said during a quarterly earnings call.
No major crude pipelines move oil west across the Rocky Mountains, so West Coast refineries have limited access to North American crudes that are cheaper than imports.
Some individual refineries receive crude via rail, but many such projects are stalled amid opposition in light of multiple fiery crude train crashes, the latest just two days ago in North Dakota.
A Washington state council has begun a trial-like adjudication process as part of its review of the Tesoro project, and its environmental impact statement is slated to be released in mid-2015 - later than the May time frame Tesoro had previously expected.
The council will then submit its recommendation to Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who has the final say on whether the railport will be built. He has two months from the date he receives the recommendation to decide.
Goff said Tesoro and its partner, Savage Services, are doing “everything possible to keep it moving forward, but at the end of the day we’re somewhat at the mercy of how that council progresses.” (Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Paul Simao)