Exxon seeks to use trucks to haul oil after pipeline break
Associated Press, Jun 05, 2015 1:06 PM PDT
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. —An oil company wants to use tanker trucks to haul oil through Santa Barbara County while a pipeline that spilled crude into the Pacific Ocean last month is out of commission.
Exxon Mobil officials have told county officials they want to use a fleet of 5,000-gallon tankers for the job, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
Kevin Drude, head of the county’s energy division, said the company proposes to have trucks use Highway 101 daily, around the clock at a rate of eight trucks an hour to get the oil moving to refineries.
Exxon Mobil normally moves crude from three offshore platforms through more than 10 miles of pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline.
The movement has been stopped since the pipe ruptured on May 19 and released up to 101,000 gallons west of Santa Barbara. Thousands of gallons flowed down a culvert under Highway 101 and into the ocean at Refugio State Beach.
The trucking proposal is seen as risky by environmentalists.
“We don’t want another disaster,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center.
Glenn Russell, county planning and development director, said his staff will review the proposal and make a decision by Monday. He said he expects a similar request from another oil company, Freeport-McMoRan, which has also been affected by the pipeline shutdown.
Cleanup and investigations into corrosion that resulted in the failure of the pipe have been underway since the spill and there’s no timetable for putting the pipeline back in service.
Exxon Mobil would use the trucks until the pipeline is operational again, said company spokesman Richard Keil.
“We need to move our product by truck to serve the energy needs of Californians and the demands of the refineries we supply,” he said.
Exxon reduced oil production from 30,000 to 8,500 barrels a day and is storing the crude in tanks at Las Flores Canyon near the coast highway.
Russell said the company now has two weeks’ worth of storage space left.
Repost from CNN [Editor: One of the best reports I’ve seen. The video has spokespeople for environmental concerns and footage of protests. Unfortunately, CNN does not permit embedding – you will need to go to CNN and watch the commercial first. Grrr. – RS]
Santa Barbara oil spill: Authorities, environmentalists step up response
By Michael Martinez, Sara Sidner, and Faith Karimi, CNN, May 23, 2015
Santa Barbara, California (CNN) – Authorities have intensified their response to this week’s Santa Barbara oil spill by announcing remedies and additional investigations.
The California attorney general’s office is working with local prosecutors as well as state and federal agencies in investigating Tuesday’s spill that prompted a state-issued emergency in Santa Barbara County and the closing of two state beaches until June 4.
“California’s coastline is one of the state’s most precious natural treasures. This oil spill has scarred the scenic Santa Barbara coast, natural habitats and wildlife. My office is working closely with our state and federal partners on an investigation of this conduct to ensure we hold responsible parties accountable,” Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said.
The cause of the oil spill remains under investigation.
Oil company’s response
The oil firm, Plains All American Pipeline, has been actively participating in the cleanup and daily press conferences with federal and state officials.
“Our goal is zero (spills),” senior director Patrick Hodgins of Plains All American told reporters Friday. “Are we happy with this unfortunate event? Absolutely not.
“We’re going to be here until it is taken care of,” Hodgins added.
In a general statement Friday, the firm said it had “significantly increased” the size and spending of its safety program since 2008. The firm added that “releases from Plains pipelines have significantly decreased while throughput volume has increased since 2008.”
The firm had taken measures that “exceeded the federal regulatory requirement” for the Santa Barbara pipeline that eventually ruptured this week, and had inspected it two times in the past three years.
In fact, the pipeline was examined May 5, and investigators will be reviewing those results, officials said.
The coastal town of Goleta on Friday declared its own state of emergency, citing the spill as an “extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.”
Progress so far
As the cleanup entered its fourth day on Friday, vessels were “actually doing pretty well” recovering oil from the ocean, but “the harder part” will be cleaning the land — the shoreline, the beaches, the cliffs and the hillside near U.S. Highway 101 where the pipe ruptured, said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jennifer Williams.
“It could take months,” she said.
Officials provided a tally Friday of the cleanup and environmental damage:
• 10,000 gallons of oily water removed from the ocean;
• 91 cubic yards of oily solids and 800 cubic yards of oily soil removed from beaches;
• 9.5 square miles of ocean and 8.7 miles of coastline affected, from Arroyo Hondo beach to Refugio State Beach, near Goleta.
• Three brown pelicans were killed. Six more brown pelicans, two California sea lions and an elephant seal are being rehabilitated after oil coated them. A common dolphin was found dead without oil on its exterior, but it will be examined for signs of ingested oil.
On Friday, environmentalists declared the spill “a wake-up call” on continued oil development. They urged state and federal politicians to refuse additional oil projects, especially in Santa Barbara County, and called upon the nation to usher in a “post-oil era” by embracing renewable energy.
The activists noted that a 1969 spill in Santa Barbara was so catastrophic it ignited the environmental movement and a host of federal and state laws to protect the natural world.
The onshore pipeline behind this week’s Santa Barbara oil spill leaked more than 100,000 gallons of crude on coastal lands and into the ocean, the oil company said.
At its worst, the smell burns your nostrils and gives you a little nagging headache.
Stones at Refugio State Beach lay splattered with a jet black tar, like goo, which can only be crude oil.
An industrial-size trash bin of oily vegetation sits next to the beach. Bikinis and surfboards on once pristine sandy shores have been replaced with people in hazmat suits, digging in the dirt and picking up oil-laden sticks and plants.
Among the worst violators
The underground oil pipeline was carrying 1,300 barrels an hour, below its maximum capacity of 2,000 barrels an hour, said Rick McMichael of Plains All American Pipeline.
Plains All American is among the worst violators listed by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration.
It surpassed all but four of more than 1,700 operators in safety and maintenance infractions, the federal agency said.
Hodgins suggested the comparison wasn’t fair because “we’re also much larger than those companies that we were compared to.”
“Most of the companies that we’re compared to have half the amount of pipelines” that Plains All American has, Hodgins said Friday. “So therefore, with double the number of miles of pipelines, unfortunately incidents have occurred, (and) the larger and the more of those can be realized.”
Most of the spills were caused by pipe corrosion, the EPA said.
The oil company agreed to pay a $3.25 million civil penalty and spend $41 million to upgrade 10,420 miles (16,770 kilometers) of crude oil pipeline operated in the United States, the EPA said in 2010.
Lobsters killed, pelicans soaked in oil
Meanwhile, crews continued to clean beaches and coastal waters, and officials reported the leak killed an undisclosed number of lobsters, kelp bass and marine invertebrates. Six oil-soaked pelicans and one young sea lion were being rehabilitated.
As of Thursday night, vessels had skimmed 9,500 gallons of oily water from the ocean, McMichael said.
The cleanup could last months, officials said. For now, currents, tides and winds make the oil plume “a moving target” as it drifts offshore, said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jennifer Williams.
Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline estimated up to 105,000 gallons may have spilled from a broken pipe, based on the typical flow rate of oil and the elevation of the pipeline.
Since the pipeline is underground, it will take a few days to determine how much crude oil was spilled, said McMichael, who estimated 21,000 gallons of crude had gone into the Pacific Ocean, with the rest spilled on land.
Not the first time
A spill in January 1969 became what was, at the time, the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster. Though this week’s spill is smaller, it still prompted California’s governor to declare a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County.
The 1969 disaster was so catastrophic that it gave birth to an environmental movement, a host of regulations against the oil and gas industry, and a new commission to protect California’s coast, experts said.
Subsequent U.S. oil spills were much larger, including the Exxon Valdez accident, which dumped 11 million gallons off Alaska’s shores in 1989, and the Deepwater Horizon spill, which put 210 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
But the 1969 Santa Barbara spill energized a movement that led to new federal and state environmental laws and helped establish the first Earth Day the next year.
The environment remains a major concern around Refugio State Beach, which was desolate Thursday, as were its campgrounds, which are normally packed for Memorial Day weekend. The only sounds were the waves and the helicopter above, a buzzing reminder of the oily mess below.