A rendering of a marine fuel barge. (Submitted)

Wolverine’s eco-fuel station for cargo ships takes a big step forward

The business would provide low-sulphur fuel to container ships within the Port of Prince Rupert

The harbour may be deep, and the closest North American port to Asia, but Prince Rupert is missing one key service — a marine fuelling station.

Wolverine Terminals has proposed setting up a marine fuelling service south of Westview Wood Pellet Terminal and after receiving an Environmental Determination, from the Prince Rupert Port Authority and Transport Canada, the project is one step closer to construction.

“This isn’t seen as a final approval of the project,” clarified Ken Veldman, VP public affairs and sustainability for the Port of Prince Rupert.

The port and Wolverine still have to execute a lease that will include the conditions identified in the environmental assessment, and Transport Canada still has to provide Wolverine with an authorization to operate. Wolverine also has to make its final investment decision before the project is made official.

The project was first introduced to the community in Oct. 2017. The company hosted an open house and provided more details on how CN Rail will deliver the fuel via an Aquatrain loading ramp onto the floating fuel barge. The project would supply container ships with low-sulphur fuel, preventing vessels from having to travel south to fuel up.

Wolverine expects to be operational by mid-2020. This could be timely with the new international fuel regulations taking effect Jan. 1, 2020 that will put a cap on sulphur content within bunker fuel.

READ MORE: Wolverine’s first open house

In an effort to benefit the environment and human health, the U.N. International Maritime Organization set new regulations that limits the amount of sulphur in fuel — by next year it will be reduced to .5 per cent, from 3.5 per cent. Ships will either have to use the low-sulphur fuel or install scrubbers.

The area around the B.C. coastline has required low-sulphur fuel for several years and Veldman said there has been a significant reduction in emissions.

However, vessels have been able to receive exemptions from using low-sulphur fuel if they are operating in an area where it’s not available.

“So, the ability for a bunkering business, like Wolverine, to actually be able to provide that kind of fuel locally eliminates the exemptions that may have occurred otherwise,” Veldman said.

Although the Wolverine project will provide eco-friendly gas to cargo ships, the Prince Rupert Environmental Society is concerned about the increased emissions the marine fuel project will add to Kaien Island.

The annual air emission rate has been estimated at 122 tonnes of NOx (Nitrogen Oxide), according to the draft Environmental Effects Evaluation for the project.

“That would be like adding 185,000 cars to downtown Rupert,” said Will Spat, a member of the Prince Rupert Environmental Society.

Much of these emissions will be a result of adding one or two tugs to the harbour for the project. To reduce emissions the project proposes a few ways it can reduce its impact, including avoiding tug idling and ensuring those tugs will meet a certain level of NOx emissions levels.

Another concern for residents along Graham Avenue is the land footprint this project will have in front of their homes.

“Very limited, in fact, there will be some in terms of shore power that will be available to the barge, but even the employees would be accessing the barge by crew vessel,” Veldman said.

READ MORE: Port of Prince Rupert president on growing trade in 2019

Receiving the Environmental Determination in March was a significant step in moving this project forward.

“As a full-service port, Prince Rupert can optimize its strategic advantages as the closest North American port to Asia with the deepest natural harbour on the continent and direct access to a rail network with connections across North America,” said Serge Bisson, President, Wolverine Terminals ULC, in the press release. “With this proposed terminal service, we’re supporting economic prosperity in the region for the foreseeable future.”

With the upcoming fuel regulations for vessels, Veldman added that the Prince Rupert Port Authority is currently updating its bunkering guidelines.

“To ensure that they’re going to reflect global best practices and ensure safe clean bunkering operations in the port for any fuel supplier, whether that be Wolverine and the Prince Rupert Marine Fuel Service Project or any other company that may be doing a business along those lines,” he said.

Those changes will come in a future update to the Port Information Guide and will be available for public comment.

To report a typo, email: editor@thenorthernview.com.


Shannon Lough | Editor
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Proposed location for Wolverine Terminals’ Prince Rupert Marine Fuels project. (Submitted)

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