Hammond's Gibson Yard continues to expand, with pipeline operator Buckeye Partners LP restarting long-dormant rail unloading operations at the northeast corner of the yard.
The pipeline company has constructed four new sets of tracks and new tanks there for transferring ethanol between tank cars hauled by Indiana Harbor Belt Railway and for off-loading some ethanol to trucks.
Operations are starting with one, 110-car train per week, then will ramp up to three and possibly more trains per week, according to documents Buckeye filed with the federal Surface Transportation Board on Dec. 5.
Buckeye's tracks and its tank farm are located just southwest of the intersection of Kennedy Avenue and Michigan Avenue.
A notice of Buckeye's filing of an exemption in the Federal Register this week describes the acquisition of the facility by Buckeye Hammond Railroad LLC from Buckeye Partners LP. Petitions to stay the exemption must be filed with the Surface Transportation Board by Thursday.
A Buckeye spokesman did not respond to questions Friday afternoon. Buckeye Partners, of Houston, is the operator of one of the nation's largest independent petroleum pipeline networks.
The Buckeye project is the latest expansion of operations at Gibson Yard, which has long been eyed by city officials as a promising area for economic development.
Last year, Canadian fertilizer maker Potash Corp. sealed a deal to locate a $40 million rail transfer facility on the south side of Gibson Yard. Indiana Harbor Belt installed $20 million of added rail facilities to serve Potash Corp.
Indiana Harbor Belt Director of Commercial Operations Jim Sheppard said there is a definite need for more rail transfer facilities for pipeline products like those handled by Buckeye "because pipelines can't go everywhere."
Indiana Harbor Belt is the largest switch carrier in the United States, operating 54 miles of mainline track circling Chicago. It serves industrial customers in the steel, chemical, foodstuff and energy industries as well as major railroads. It also operates a large transfer facility for new automobiles at Gibson Yard.