Pacific Coast Terminals: Putting the “Port” in Port Moody

Those big yellow sulphur piles in Port Moody are a regular site for those of us who live here in the Tri-Cities. But how much do you really know about them? When we got in touch with Pacific Coast Terminals back in March to talk about a notice of motion from Zoe Royer, we realized that we really didn’t know much at all. So when we had the chance to tour the facility in April, we jumped on it.

Welcome to PCT

Pacific Coast Terminals first opened in Port Moody in 1960, and in the beginning it mostly handled coal. Coal shipments stopped in 1982, when they switched to the sulphur we see today. There are actually three different types of sulphur in three different piles at the facility. They’re chemically identical, but differ in size and shape. You may be aware that they have handled some small amounts of coal recently. To date in 2011 and 2012 there have been four shipments, and there are a few more planned before they end that in 2013.

Here are some other fun facts we picked up during our tour:
One type of sulphur up close

  • The Port Moody facility is the largest sulphur export terminal in the world.
  • The sulphur is extracted from “sour gas” in the prairies, and the vast majority is shipped overseas to use as fertilizer.
  • The sulphur in Port Moody doesn’t have that rotten egg smell because the hydrogen sulfide is removed at the processing plant before the sulphur leaves the prairies.
  • Pacific Coast Terminals also handles glycol, which is used in anti-freeze. The substance is odourless and biodegradable.
  • Pacific Coast Terminals uses Jane the falcon to scare gulls and crows away.

This device loads sulphur on ships
The sulphur and glycol all arrive at the terminal on rail cars. The sulphur cars are unloaded using a mechanism that rotates and dumps each car without uncoupling them. From there, the sulphur goes into the piles and then it’s loaded on to ships. They’re extremely efficient, and have the ability to dump up to 30 rail cars per hour.

Freighter heading off to sea
The facility has an excellent safety record – the best in Port Metro Vancouver. They’ve had no lost time accidents in four years. They also take their environmental responsibility seriously. They have a water recycling system that allows them to re-use the water involved in handling sulphur. As part of the recycling process the water passes through settling ponds, which have become bird habitats. They’ve created a marshland as well, which is really quite beautiful, and they’ve planted over 2000 trees. They’ve also switched to electric vehicles on-site, and more efficient lighting. They’ve reduced their carbon monoxide by 75% and their carbon dioxide by 40%.

Port Moody Inlet
At the moment, sulphur is on the decline. This is because there’s less sour gas being extracted. Pacific Coast Terminals is considering what they will move to when sulphur is no longer viable. At the moment they’re considering potash from Saskatchewan and vegetable oils. However, there is nothing firm yet.

Sulphur on the train tracks
If you’d like to see Pacific Coast Terminals for yourself, they’ll be opening for public tours in 2013 as part of Port Moody’s centennial celebrations. As the company that puts the “Port” in Port Moody, this seems particularly fitting.

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