Half of Washington’s crude-by-rail went through Whatcom County last quarter

Savage Services employees offload crude oil from a train on Oct. 8, 2014, at the BP Cherry Point Refinery rail loop.
Savage Services employees offload crude oil from a train on Oct. 8, 2014, at the BP Cherry Point Refinery rail loop. The Bellingham Herald

Half the crude oil that moved through Washington state by train went to or through Whatcom County last quarter, according to a new report state officials released Thursday.

Whatcom County refineries got about 273.4 million gallons of light crude from North Dakota from October through December 2016, according to data in the report. That’s about 91 trains, if they were each hauling 105 tank cars. Another 35.9 million gallons of heavy and medium crude oil from Alberta passed through Whatcom County on its way to Skagit County refineries, which means Whatcom County rails saw half the state’s nearly 618 million gallons of crude-by-rail reported that quarter.

The report is the first of its kind released under a 2015 state law that required disclosure of oil moving on trains and through pipelines. Vessels already were reporting applicable information under an earlier law.

The data are aggregated from information reported to the state by facilities that get crude oil – and is not broken down by facility.

Trains still make up a smaller portion of the total crude transportation into the state, the report shows – vessels brought in 1.14 billion gallons of crude oil over the same period.

Whatcom refineries BP Cherry Point and Phillips 66 accepted about 51 percent of that amount, according to data provided in another state report.

That means ships still bring in more than twice as much crude oil as trains do for Whatcom County.

A total picture of the crude movement won’t be available until February, when pipeline information will be added to the report. Those operators have until Jan. 31 to report data for the same period.

The Department of Ecology notes in the report that “Ecology cannot confirm the data or verify its accuracy.” That note acknowledges that information is received from the refineries, with no independent way for the state to verify the routes or amounts, said Jack Barfield, with Ecology’s spills program.

Everyone is participating at this point, and “it’s gone fairly smoothly as far as reporting,” Barfield said. “They’re all playing the game and doing it properly as far as we can tell.”

Portions of this report came from the Associated Press.

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil