Biofuels firm plans port operation in addition to truck stop - Brownsville Herald: Premium

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FUEL FOR THE CITY Biofuels firm plans port operation in addition to truck stop

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Posted: Thursday, October 9, 2014 10:00 pm

United Fuel Supply LLC, the Salt Lake City-based biofuels company planning to build a truck stop at FM 511 and Paredes Line Road near the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, is also in talks with Port of Brownsville officials about developing a liquid bulk cargo terminal to handle petroleum-based commodities.

Santiago Garcia, who heads a UFS branch office in McAllen, said in a phone interview that the terminal proposal is a response to recent energy reform in Mexico, which is expected to spur offshore drilling in Mexican waters and create economic opportunities in the Rio GrandeValley as well as in Mexico.

Garcia said the terminal project is in the first stage of engineering and would cost about $100 million. UFS has a terminal port in Houston, though Brownsville is closer to massive oil fields that have been discovered off the Gulf coast of the United States and Mexico, he said.

Garcia said development of the project is a long process with many steps and will require additional meetings with port officials as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Eddie Campirano, port director and CEO, said UFS made an application to lease port property and that the liquid bulk terminal the company is proposing is similar to existing terminal operations at the port run by companies like Maverick and Transmontaigne.

“Most of what they’re looking at is lubricants and fuels, the same as the other terminal operators are doing,” he said. “They say they want to build tanks, they want to import and export, they also want to build a dock so they can service their vessels.”

Campirano said the port has not entered into a lease with UFS and is still in the process of conducting due diligence on the company to determine its “financial capabilities.”

“All we’ve gotten from the commission so far is authority to negotiate,” he said. “We haven’t received everything (from UFS) to recommend that we’re actually ready to go into a lease.

“At some point in time we will go ahead and make a recommendation. At this point we’re not there yet from what I understand.”

Garcia said the truck stop, or “truck terminal travel center,” is a go regardless of what happens with the terminal project and could break ground within the next 45 days. The city commission approved the required zoning change in August.

The facility will bear the name of UFS subsidiary “Washakie Renewable Energy” according to a computer rendering he provided. It will feature about 20 fuel pumps, some selling biodiesel and others conventional fuel containing a percentage of biofuel, Garcia said.

“Our truck stop is one of a kind,” he said. “Basically we are going to be green. We’re going to be using the biofuels that we produce and pass it on to the client. I don’t think there are any gas stations here that actually offer biofuel.”

The truck stop will include amenities such as a McDonald’s, movie theater, showers, free accommodations for truckers, truck-washing services and 140 parking spaces, he said.

“It’s a nice place, a really nice place,” Garcia said.

He said the truck stop is identical to UFS’s only other truck stop — currently under construction in Plymouth, Utah, north of Salt Lake City.

Garcia said the Brownsville facility’s location takes advantage of the new SH 550 Direct Connector project linking the port with I-69 East, while also addressing a shortage of state-of-the-art, travel centers in the area.

Garcia said he also bought 72 acres across from the planned truck stop site and may put in a hotel and retail shops similar to the outlet mall in Mercedes.

As for how a Salt Lake City company came to target the Rio Grande Valley for its second truck stop, Garcia said the idea was his and that he chose the Valley because of his ties to the area and also because of major economic growth for the region that he sees on the horizon — fueled in part by Mexico’s energy reform.

Garcia said he’s originally from Matamoros but now lives on the West Coast.

“Basically I went into business with (UFS),” he said. “I could have taken it and done it in California, but knowing what’s coming with the reform, I see the big potential of the job creation and tax revenues.”

Garcia said the truck stop would create 20 to 30 new jobs.

“Basically it’s a great thing for the city of Brownsville,” he said.

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