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Portland Pipe Line switch means new stacks on South Portland waterfront

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Portland Pipe Line switch means new stacks on South Portland waterfront

SOUTH PORTLAND — Portland Pipe Line's vessel unloading pier near Bug Light Park in South Portland is slated to become the company's vessel loading area when it reverses the flow of crude oil from Montreal in the next two years. 

The operational shift is not expected to change the number of oil tankers annually visiting Casco Bay, about 175, but will require two 70-foot tall, 12-foot diameter vapor combustion towers on the company's pier between Bug Light Park and the Spring Point Lighthouse. 

Portland Pipe Line Treasurer David Cyr say vapor combustion towers, which resemble smoke stacks, will not produce visible smoke and will produce little-to-no emissions.

Portland Pipe Line Engineer Ken Brown said at an Aug. 25 meeting of the South Portland Planning Board that there are three other combustion towers in South Portland, one of which is located on Turner's Island and can be seen from the Casco Bay Bridge. Brown said the towers on PPL's pier will be larger, since the Turner Island towers mitigate vapors for loading trucks, not tankers. 

Brown said the towers are strictly regulated by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency.

He said the pipeline company will do what it can to make the oceanfront towers blend into the environment. 

"Our intent is is for these (towers) to be of a color that will fit into the background and marine environment," Brown said. "A neutral blue color to blend into the sky and harbor."

In addition to the vapor combustion towers, modifications will also be made at Portland Pipe Line's tank farm on Hill Street, which will store oil being pumped from Western Canada until it is transferred to ships at the marine terminal. 

Hamilton Street resident Jenny Schubert was concerned about additional noise and odors. 

"We do get noise that drifts up from the Hill Street site," Schubert said. "Sometimes we get odor that drifts up through the neighborhood."

Brown assured residents that they should detect few changes near Hill Street. The new pumps will be in a building acoustically engineered to contain noise. Any discernible noise from the 24-hour-a-day operation, he said, will fall within the requirements of the city's noise ordinance. 

"There are no plans to have pumping units outdoors," Brown said. 

Cyr this week said the pipeline is reversing the flow of crude oil because of an increase in production from western Canada. One of the under-served markets for Canadian crude, he said, is the eastern United States.

Currently, the pipeline ships about 350,000 gallons of crude daily through a 236-mile pipeline that runs from the South Portland waterfront, under Long Creek and along the Portland International Jetport. That level of production should continue once the changes are made, Cyr said.  

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net