BP selects Whatcom County for $1.5 billion investment for these projects
BP is investing $1.5 billion into its Cherry Point refinery to help the energy company meet its net-zero climate goal. Whatcom County is one of five locations worldwide where BP plans new low-carbon projects.
A sustainable aviation fuel production facility and a green hydrogen production facility are planned for Whatcom County, Eric Zimpfer, BP vice president refining at Cherry Point, told The Bellingham Herald in an interview Wednesday, March 22.
Construction of the projects will bring an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 jobs to the facility for approximately three years. Permanent positions to run the new facilities will be required, but it is too early to say how many, Zimpfer said. BP Cherry Point currently has about 850 permanent staff.
“I am personally really excited about this opportunity. I think about BP’s stated ambition to be net zero by 2050, we think about how the refinery will continue to evolve over time,” Zimpfer said. “I would hold this as a continuation of this journey the refinery has been on to be an integrated energy hub.”
While it is still too early for Zimpfer to say if the construction jobs are going to be filled by local workers, he said BP is happy with the quality of its relationship with the Whatcom community and would like to maintain and even strengthen its relationship.
Cherry Point was chosen as one of the five locations for these new facilities because of its proximity to major airports in Seattle and Vancouver, as well as the dedicated workforce at the site, Zimpfer said.
“The vision of the state to drive a green economy and attract investments in a green economy, I think very much aligns with what BP is looking to do,” Zimpfer said. “Whether it is the Climate Commitment Act, whether it is the low carbon fuel standard, that legislation has created the opportunity for businesses to come to Washington state to make their green investments.”
“The governor is excited about BP’s planned investments in new clean energy projects at its Cherry Point refinery site,” Mike Faulk, deputy communications director for the office of Jay Inslee, told The Herald in an email Thursday, March 23. “Washington’s ambitious clean energy policies are driving new investments in clean solutions. The transition from fossil fuels to clean energy is essential to fighting climate change, and as BP’s announcement shows, building new clean energy projects will create good jobs in Washington.”
The timeline for the construction of the facilities depends heavily on the permitting process. There are still a number of steps BP needs to take with the state and the local tribes, but the target is to complete construction and begin production by 2028, and if construction is going to take an estimated three years, it will need to begin around 2025 to remain on schedule, Zimfer said.
“I think this is a good opportunity,” Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu told The Herald in a telephone interview Thursday. “This is good for the environment. It is great that they are being proactive and putting a substantial amount of money to become green.”
Sidhu said the investment as a way to bring jobs to Whatcom County, something that is needed after the official shutdown of the Alcoa Intalco aluminum smelting plant last week. However, housing opportunities need to improve to meet the needs of new workers, Sidhu said.
The sustainable aviation fuel facility is expected to produce 150 million gallons of renewable jet fuel a year. BP is still evaluating the green hydrogen facility, so its potential is unknown at this time. However, BP plans to use the green hydrogen created at the facility to lower the carbon emissions of its production, although outside markets may be possible as the green hydrogen markets expand, BP media relations manager Christina Audisho told The Herald in an email.
The new facilities are planned to be added to the existing BP Cherry Point property. Zimpfer said they are looking at space, but there is still a lot to do before an exact location can be selected.