April 5, 2023

Pierce County businesses lead on environmental innovation

Earth Day is a big deal for companies across Tacoma-Pierce County that continue to invest in green technology and innovation, environmental remediation and critical habitat restoration.

“Our industrial, manufacturing and maritime ecosystem is a regional and national leader on environmental stewardship and the transition to a greener economy,” said Ryan Spence, Director of the Manufacturing Council for the South Sound. “As the direct result of these efforts, Tacoma and Pierce County continue to experience growth and increased economic prosperity.”

Here are just a few examples of the good things happening on the Tacoma Tideflats.

Schnitzer Steel

One of North America’s largest manufacturers and exporters of recycled metals operates a metals recycling and deep-water export facility in Tacoma. The operation is an example of the circular economy in action.

  • Schnitzer offers local access to metals recycling for individuals, small businesses and industrial manufacturers.
  • A dedicated area for public drop-off of appliances, aluminum beverage containers and non-ferrous metals keeps the materials out of the landfill, conserves energy and natural resources, and expands environmental services to the community.
  • Metals processed at the facility are sold to domestic and international customers to be used to manufacture new products, including low-carbon technologies of the future, such as wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles.
  • Schnitzer participates in the Evergreen Options Program offered through Tacoma Public Utilities, which provides the company’s facility with electricity from majority carbon-free hydroelectricity.

In January, Schnitzer was named the most sustainable company in the world by Corporate Knights, a leading media and research organization focused on corporate sustainability performance.

You can learn more about Schnitzer’s sustainability efforts in the company’s 2022 Sustainability Report.

U.S. Oil & Refining Co.

This key supplier of refined products to Tacoma and the Pacific Northwest continues efforts to produce lower carbon intensity fuels, increase renewable fuel production and mitigate stormwater runoff.

Here are a few examples:

  • U.S. Oil is the lowest intensity refinery in the state as measured by metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted per barrel of crude oil processed. Since 2015, the company has lowered greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 30%.
      • In 2015, more than $12 million was invested to install equipment that increased recovery of liquified petroleum gas (LPG), and significantly reduced gas flaring associated with the refining process.
      • In 2022, over $10 million was invested to install equipment to reduce emissions by increasing heat recovery requiring less process gas/natural gas for fired heaters.
  • U.S. Oil is working to become only the second producer of renewable diesel in the state. The project, which is slated to go online in the second quarter of this year, will allow the company to produce a road diesel that is made from about 5% renewable feed stock.
  • With recent increases in stormwater runoff standards, the company is investing around $1.5 million to route stormwater through its wastewater plant or through filter media boxes that reduce copper and zinc (not related to refining) down to part per billion levels.

To learn more, download the most recent Par Pacific Sustainability Report.

TOTE Maritime Alaska

TOTE is an industry leader in transportation and logistics. It’s twice-weekly service between Tacoma and Anchorage offers industry-leading transit time and the fastest port turns in the trade.

Here are some of the company’s innovative initiatives that benefit the environment and communities it serves:

  • Starting in 2010, TOTE was the first shipping company in the Pacific Northwest to utilize shore power, which supplies electricity to dockside vessels and reduces reliance upon shipboard generators. As a result, diesel and greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 2,600 tons annually – the equivalent of removing more than 550 cars from the road each year.
  • TOTE Maritime Alaska was the first to build an industrial rain garden in the South Puget Sound to filter pollutants from water that drains from building rooftops. It’s estimated that the rain garden eliminates more than 80% of heavy metals that would otherwise flow into Commencement Bay.
  • This year, the company will complete its historic, multi-year liquified natural gas (LNG) conversion of its Alaska vessels – the first conversion of its kind in North America. This long-term investment ensures vessels will exceed EPA emissions standards, while protecting the pristine waters of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Compared to existing heavy marine fuel oils, LNG can emit up to 95% fewer nitrogen oxide emissions and particulate matter. The conversion will reduce emissions of TOTE’s shoreside fleet and cut major air pollution factors by as much as 30%.
  • Each year, TOTE donates $1.4 million in in-kind donations and financial support to environmental nonprofits.

Seaport Sound Terminal

The petroleum products storage and transfer facility was one of the first bulk fuel terminals in the state to introduce renewable fuels. Throughout the years, Seaport has added rail and biofuel blending, and upgraded its dock and tankage. Without these capabilities, renewable energy would not be able to come to Washington in significant volumes or without significant greenhouse gas impact.

Today, Seaport is leading the charge and has become the largest renewable fuel terminal in the state. The company’s growth has given Washington State the ability to provide the fuels of today and the fuels of the future.


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