Is Utah coal bound for Baja California? Officials strike a deal with the Mexican state, where a port could ship it overseas.
The West’s coal country has long sought to offset declining domestic coal consumption through exports to Pacific Rim countries. But politically liberal West Coast cities and states have gotten in the way, obstructing proposals for new coal-handling terminals.
Now, Utah is looking south of the U.S. border to ship its coal and possibly natural gas overseas.
On Thursday, the Utah Office of Energy Development (OED) signed a memorandum of understanding with economic development officials for the Mexican state of Baja California to establish “a close binational collaboration” aimed at connecting Utah energy resources with new markets abroad.
The idea would be to build on existing bulk-handling facilities at the Port of Ensenada, according to an OED news release. The port, 65 miles south of San Diego, is expected to expand into Puerto El Sauzal.
“Utah’s strong economic focus, consistent policy landscape and diverse natural energy resource mix have positioned us to become a global powerhouse for energy exports,” said Laura Nelson, Gov. Gary Herbert’s energy adviser. “As the world’s demand for energy continues to rise, Utah’s unparalleled resources can play a key role in helping the world realize greater energy security, which will also serve to strengthen our rural communities at home.”
Also of interest to the Beehive State is the port’s potential to export natural gas, which Utah holds in great abundance but has to be fully developed because of persistently low commodity prices.
Utah, Colorado and Wyoming have long backed a proposed liquified-natural-gas terminal in Coos Bay, Ore., that could deliver their gas to Asian markets — if it ever gets built. The Jordan Cove project has yet to commence after 20 years of planning.
Earlier this week, Nelson toured the Ensenada port, which features a nearby liquified-natural-gas terminal, where she sees an opportunity to export Utah gas. San Diego-based Sempra Energy is seeking to expand its Energia Costa Azul project here.
“It’s so impressive. The Port of Ensenada is a small port that allows them to be flexible and deliberate in the way they manage their operations,” Nelson said. “They’ve also got the tourist aspect because of where the cruise lines come in. It’s the first stop out of California. They have to be an efficient and clear port to support that tourism.”
Joining Nelson in Baja for Thursday’s signing were Carbon County Commission Chairman Jae Potter and state Sen. David Hinkins, a Republican from Emery County’s Orangeville, two of the Utah coal industry’s most enthusiastic supporters.
The informal agreement between Utah and Baja California is rather vague, seeking to “encourage cooperation across infrastructure development, trade opportunities among regulators and operators, in identifying potential global markets, and promoting visits by government, industry and other specialists,” according to the OED.
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- On August 25, 2018