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The oil company will buy diesel produced by NEXT Renewable Fuels at Columbia County plant

Stay connected to your local news! Get digital access today. NEXT Renewable Fuels Inc. has yet to identify a site to build its new plant at Port Westward, but the company has already signed a contract with Shell to supply fuels from a site at the Clatskanie industrial park.SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Lou Soumas of NEXT Renewable Fuels gives a presentation to commissioners with the Port of Columbia County in 2018. NEXT Renwable Fuels announced a major sale agreement with Shell to provide renewable diesel products produced at Port Westward.

NEXT announced on Feb. 4 that the company "entered a long-term purchase and sale agreement" with Shell Trading Company for renewable diesel products produced at a site at Port Westward Industrial Park that has yet to be built.

Last summer, the renewable fuels company announced prospective plans to pour more than $1 billion into an 80-acre site near Clatskanie and bring roughly 200 jobs to the area.

But there was one major snag: The port doesn't have land available yet for NEXT to build on.

The fuel company's project hinges on a years-long attempt by the port to rezone more than 800 acres of land near Port Westward to add it to the industrial park and make more industrial space available for development. That process is currently held up in appeals court, but the uncertain land decision hasn't held back NEXT.

Since signing a site development and option agreement with the port, the company has struck a deal with Shell and laid out ambitious development plans.

NEXT says it is "currently in the permitting phase" of the billion dollar site, which it hopes to open in 2021.

"We will be ready to start construction just as soon as we complete the permitting process," Lou Soumas, president of NEXT, stated via email. "Right now we're projecting early 2020 for breaking ground. The project represents an investment of more than $1 billion, and we anticipate requiring approximately 2 million skilled construction labor hours to complete the build-out."

If the project comes to fruition, the site would have an anticipated processing capacity of 13.3 million barrels, or 600 gallons, of fuel per year, according to the company.

"Shell and NEXT share a vision for a greener world through the advancement of renewable transportation fuels giving consumers greener fuel options," Soumas stated in a news release.

The fuels processing plant is the second major indust-

rial fuels project to scout land on a portion of Port Westward.

Since 2014, the Port of Columbia County has had a leasehold with Northwest Innovation Works for a prospective methanol refinery. NWIW has paid the port to hold a spot, but its plans for a methanol plant in Columbia County have gained little traction so far.

Port officials confirmed that if the NWIW project doesn't move forward, NEXT could take over the company's leasehold agreement.

Doug Hayes, the port's executive director, declined to provide details about the possibility of such an arrangement, but noted Wednesday that the two companies "are talking" about the leasehold to secure space.


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