Tag Archives: San Joaquin County CA

KQED: Pipeline at Center of Altamont Pass Oil Spill Also Ruptured Last September

Repost from KQED
[Editor: A colleague reports that “The Altomont Pass pipeline brings heavy crude oil from southern San Joaquin Valley oilfields to some of our Bay Area refineries.”  – RS]

Pipeline at Center of Altamont Pass Oil Spill Also Ruptured Last September

By Ted Goldberg, May 24, 2016

California’s fire marshal has launched an investigation into an oil pipeline rupture that spilled at least 20,000 gallons of crude near Tracy over the weekend — eight months after the same pipeline had a break in a similar location.

Shell Pipeline crews are still cleaning up from the most recent spill near Interstate 580 and the border between Alameda and San Joaquin counties four days after the 24-inch diameter line broke.

Crews with the oil giant were able to complete repairs on the pipe on Monday, according to a Shell official.

The pipeline stretches from Coalinga in Fresno County to Martinez.

The rupture on the line was first reported at 3 a.m. on Friday, said Lisa Medina, an environmental specialist at the San Joaquin County Environmental Health Department.

Shell discovered a loss of pressure in the pipeline, filed a report with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and then shut the line down.

San Joaquin County officials believe the spill covered an area 250 feet long by 40 feet wide, Medina said in an interview.

A preliminary test of the pipeline found a split of approximately 18 to 20 inches in length, said company spokesman Ray Fisher in an email.

Fisher also confirmed that the same pipeline ruptured and caused an oil spill in the same vicinity, near West Patterson Pass Road, last Sept. 17.

Here’s a link to Shell’s report on that incident that found the rupture spilled 21,000 gallons of oil, about the same amount as Friday’s break.

Fisher said Shell inspects its pipelines every three years, and the company conducted an inspection of the line after the September incident.

He added that the line has no history of corrosion problems.

It’s unclear what caused the most recent spill.

On Tuesday, state fire officials confirmed that the Office of the State Fire Marshal had opened a probe into the pipeline rupture.

Federal regulators are not investigating the break, but are providing technical support to the state, said an official with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The spill prompted concerns from environmentalists.

Sierra Club representatives pointed out that the spill near the Altamont Pass came weeks after Shell spilled about 90,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and a year after a major spill involving another company’s pipeline on the Santa Barbara County coast.

“Sadly, it’s become undeniable that oil spills will remain the status quo if we continue our dependence on dirty fuels,” said the Sierra Club’s Lena Moffitt in a statement. “This is just Shell’s latest disaster and the company has done nothing to assuage fears that it can stop its reckless actions.”

“The environmental impacts could be very serious,” Patrick Sullivan, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an interview. Sullivan said the spill could hurt birds and other animals in the area and could contaminate nearby groundwater.

State water regulators, though, say they’re not concerned the spill could affect water in the area.

“Given the location and the relatively limited extent of the spill, it is highly unlikely that the spill would affect underlying  groundwater and even more unlikely that it would impact any drinking water supplies,” said Miryam Baras, a spokeswoman for the State Water Resources Control Board, in an email.

Sullivan also questioned whether Shell’s statements on the size of the oil spill were correct.

“We don’t know how much oil has been spilled,” Sullivan said. “With previous pipeline spills the initial estimates have sometimes turned out to be wrong. They’ve turned out to be under-estimates.”

Fisher, the Shell spokesman, said the company had not revised its estimates.

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    Rail car safety concerns Stockton CA, San Joaquin County officials

    Repost from The Record, Stockton CA
    [Editor:  Significant quote: “Central California Traction Co., the short-line railroad operating in and around Stockton, each month handles about 600 rail tank cars bringing ethanol from the Midwest to petroleum terminals at the Port of Stockton.”  ALSO THIS: “Stockton’s own ethanol plant, Pacific Ethanol, doesn’t ship the fuel by rail…They bring in the corn by rail and then from there (ethanol) either goes by pipeline or truck, but it doesn’t go out again by rail.”  AND THIS: “There is a company that looks to build an oil terminal at the port — one that would receive crude oil shipments by rail then move them out to Bay Area refineries by barge — but that remains in planning….”- RS]

    Rail car safety concerns SJ officials

    By Reed Fujii, Record Staff Writer, Apr. 11, 2015 at 7:04 PM

    Calls for improved railroad tank car safety, following a string of derailments and explosive fires involving flammable liquids such as crude oil and ethanol, could help protect residents of San Joaquin County where hundreds of such tank cars move each month.

    Area government and railroad officials agree safer tank cars are needed but also say they are working to limit the risk of derailments locally and prepared to respond should such an incident occur.

    The National Transportation Safety Board on Monday issued an urgent call for stronger and more fire-resistant tank cars, saying current designs might rupture too quickly when exposed to a fire resulting from a derailment.

    “We can’t wait a decade for safer rail cars,” NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart said in a statement, in lobbying for a rapid upgrade of the existing tank car fleet.

    And Wednesday, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, issued a similar call while announcing federal legislation to reduce the volatility of Bakken crude oil shipments.

    “Every day we delay the implementation of a stronger safety standard for the transport of Bakken crude oil by rail, lives and communities are at risk,” he warned.

    Central California Traction Co., the short-line railroad operating in and around Stockton, each month handles about 600 rail tank cars bringing ethanol from the Midwest to petroleum terminals at the Port of Stockton, said Dave Buccolo, CCT general manager.

    Buccolo, who also is deeply involved in railroad safety issues, said the industry has sought improved tank car designs for several years, but the effort has been stalled in the federal bureaucracy.

    But he said area residents should not be overly concerned about the safety of flammable liquid shipments, as the railroads limit trains carrying such materials to speeds under 30 mph in urban areas. Because of that, leaks or spills are less likely in the event of a derailment.

    “We’re pretty safe here in Stockton, and people shouldn’t be worried,” Buccolo said. “Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the hazardous materials shipped by rail makes it safely to its destination.”

    Michael Cockrell, director of emergency operations for San Joaquin County, sounded a slightly different note.

    “I think everybody should be concerned,” he said about rail tank car safety.

    The movement of volatile liquids, especially for products such as crude oil and ethanol, is on the increase. But at the same time, Cockrell said, the statements from the NTSB and Garamendi, as well as other ongoing efforts at state and federal levels, are a sign that safety issues will be addressed and change is on the way.

    In addition, he said, the county, area cities and other agencies have formed a task force to provide a coordinated response to any major hazardous materials spills.

    In related news, North Dakota’s new oil train safety checks seen missing risks.

    So what’s the bottom line?

    Cockrell said: “There has been a concerted effort to make transportation safer. And … in this county there is a real active hazardous materials joint team that acts together, trains together and plans together to make sure we’re the best prepared we can be to respond to a hazardous incident.”

    Stockton’s own ethanol plant, Pacific Ethanol, doesn’t ship the fuel by rail, said Richard Aschieris, Port of Stockton director.

    “They bring in the corn by rail and then from there (ethanol) either goes by pipeline or truck, but it doesn’t go out again by rail,” he said.

    There is a company that looks to build an oil terminal at the port — one that would receive crude oil shipments by rail then move them out to Bay Area refineries by barge — but that remains in planning, Aschieris said.

    And he’s unsure what impact the recent drop in oil prices and resulting shifts in petroleum markets may have had on the terminal proposal.

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