Oregon girds to ship US coal to Pacific rim

South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan have a great hunger for coal to fuel their rapidly growing industry, and the Port of Portland intends to be a major supplier.

Construction of a new $60 million coal loading facility at the port was kicked off with a groundbreaking ceremony last month. It is scheduled to be operating by July 1, 1983.

Customer countries in the Pacific rim have been promised that ''the massive coal reserves'' of Western states would ''in quality and quantity supply any demand'' that could develop. That assurance came from the Supply Task Group of the Western Governors' Policy Conference (Westpo) as part of a $400,000, five-part coal export study.

Western coal reserves, the study said, are 99,790 billion tons. More that half of these reserves, or 54,736 billion tons, are in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana.

Westpo's Supply Task Group noted, too, that 1990 Western mine capacity of 189 million tons a year ''is projected to rise'' to 377 million tons by 1985 and 513 million tons by 1990. Because little more than half of that future capacity is reported already under contract, there will be 137 million tons available for Pacific rim delivery in 1985 and 221 million in 1990, the study added.

In another optimistic note, the National Coal Association forecasts a probable worldwide demand for United States coal by 1995 of between 119 and 189 million tons, from 90 million in 1981. It describes US total coal reserves of 478 billion tons as ''unequaled'' anywhere in the world and constituting a base ''large enough to support substantial increases in domestic use, as well as exports, for several hundred years.''

The coal loading port is being built by Pacific Coal Corporation, a subsidiary of American Guaranty Financial Corporation, of Portland. The start of construction gives the Port of Portland a substantial lead on other Columbia River ports that have started planning such facilities.

The start-up also concluded nearly two years of speculation and negotiations concerning the establishment of a major West Coast coal loading port.

Annual coal loading capacity of the new Portland setup will be 12 million tons, with provision for later expansion to 18 million.

Coal now is loaded on the West Coast out of the California ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Stockton, but even with the expansion of capacity planned for 1982 at Long Beach and 1984 at Los Angeles, the maximum annual movement of coal out of any California port will reach only 5 million tons, the planned 1984 Los Angeles port capacity.

Construction of the facility here on 100 acres leased from the Port of Portland will be directed by Reidel International, Portland. Project engineering is being supervised by the Dravo Corporation, of Pittsburgh.

Dravo, a leading engineering and equipment manufacturing firm, will also design and fabricate the major coal terminal equipment and construct a loading dock. The contract awarded Dravo was placed at $40 million, but there were no dollar figures for the Reidel contract.

Reidel is a major international heavy construction company which includes among its major projects the $150 million marine terminal at Valdez, Alaska, where Prudhoe Bay oil is loaded into supertankers.

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