The Duluth Marine Terminal: Expanding our business into new waters

September 2023 – In the most western leg of the seaway on Lake Superior, is the critically important Duluth Marine Terminal, fueled and operated by the Cenovus Superior Refinery. 

Marine transportation is an efficient way of moving products without using much fuel – one gallon of fuel (approximately four litres) can move a tonne of freight 607 miles (977 km) on a laker – a cargo ship that travels only on the Great Lakes. Located in Duluth, Minnesota, our terminal is part of a system including Esko and Crookston in Minnesota, and Rhinelander and Superior in Wisconsin.  

“With an average of 35 million tonnes of cargo going through the Duluth-Superior Port each year, this terminal is a vital checkpoint to get essential products like limestone, grain, cement, salt, wind turbines and other cargo, transported to markets all across North America,” explains Rodney Graham, Lead Terminal Operator at Cenovus Energy.  

“One of the best parts of my job is connecting with the captain and the crew on the vessels that we fuel. They come from all over the world, and it is fascinating to hear stories about their travels knowing that we are literally fueling their next adventure and getting products where they need to go.” 

Built in 1998, the dock at the terminal can accommodate vessels over 1,000 feet (305 metres) long and operates 24/7 throughout the shipping season, which typically runs from mid-March to mid-January. The main function of the terminal is to fuel lakers which can take between 30,000 and 100,000 gallons (113,562 to 378,541 litres) during a single transfer. To put that into perspective, one vessel would fill between 1,428 and 4,761 diesel pick-up trucks! 

The terminal also works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure safe operations. Every year, the terminal conducts several boom deployment trainings to sharpen the skills of its staff while complying with regulatory requirements. The terminal staff also participate in emergency management tabletops and exercises with local partners to stay up to date on response techniques and to build relationships within the port.

“Not only is the terminal a key access point for Cenovus to new reach markets, but in Duluth, every 10 industrial jobs create an additional eight jobs.” says Rodney. “Currently, there are 9,800 industrial jobs in Duluth's population of 86,697.”

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