Category Archives: California refineries

Do you have a story to tell about living in a refinery community?

Major Public Health Community Meeting on Oil and Gas Rulemaking, March 9

Sunflower Alliance, February 22, 2020

The State of California is sponsoring a series of statewide meetings where members of the public can testify about the ways the oil industry affects our health and that of our communities.  One of these meetings is being held in Oakland (see when and where below).  We highly encourage everyone with a story to tell about oil industry impacts on you, your family and your neighborhood to come and testify.  We will have two minutes to speak our hearts and minds.

​​The meeting is sponsored by the Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM, formerly DOGGR) of the state’s Department of Conservation.  Although CalGEM specifically regulates oil and gas production (oil drilling), it will share public testimony from this meeting with other state regulatory agencies.

The new rulemaking that results will be based on this important public input, and will consider the best available science and data to inform new and strengthened ​protective state requirements.​

The Sunflower Alliance is making arrangements for free transportation from Rodeo and Richmond to the hearing.  If you need a ride, please let us know at action@sunflower-alliance.com .

See this Facebook post for a recording of the first public hearing in Bakersfield meeting on February 19.

A little more background:

AB345 (currently heading toward the state senate) and the Governor’s own plans require Public Health Rulemaking around the urgent call for 2,500-foot setbacks from oil and gas extraction sites.  The first step is this series of pre-rulemaking community meetings to gather public input.

When you testify about Bay Area oil industry impacts, please be sure to start with a strong statement of solidarity with those folks who are living near oil drilling sites, and express your support for setbacks and AB345.

If you can’t attend:

Written comments can be sent via email
to CalGEMRegulations@conservation.ca.gov
or by postal mail to—
Department of Conservation
801 K Street, MS 24-02
Sacramento, CA 95814
ATTN: Public Health near Oil Gas Rule-making

WHEN

Monday, March 9, 1-3 PM —Doors open at 12:30.  A rally outside is tentatively scheduled for noon.

WHERE

​Greenlining Institute
360 14th St., Oakland (near 12th St. BART)

KQED: Valero Benicia one of three Cal oil refineries shut down – gas prices up, Chevron flaring

Repost from KQED California Report

Valero Could Restart Troubled Benicia Refinery by Mid-May

By Ted Goldberg, Apr 15, 2019
The Valero refinery in Benicia. (Craig Miller/KQED)

Valero’s Benicia refinery, shut down since last month because of equipment malfunctions, could be back online by mid-May, Benicia city officials and state regulators say.

Although the company won’t provide a date that it plans to restart the Solano County facility, Benicia Fire Chief Josh Chadwick said Monday he estimates the refinery will be back online in the next three to four weeks.

Chadwick said a Solano County hazardous materials specialist assigned to Valero provided him with the estimated timetable. County officials did make the specialist available for comment.

The California Energy Commission said Monday that the Benicia refinery is one of three California crude oil processing facilities that the agency expects to be restarted over the next several weeks. Shutdowns at the refineries — including two in the Los Angeles area — have helped drive up the cost of gasoline statewide.

Valero powered down its Benicia facility on March 24 after failing to resolve malfunctions that led to the release of soot-laden smoke.

The incident prompted Solano County to issue a health advisory for people with respiratory issues to stay indoors.

A Valero representative said the company will not disclose its restart date.

“I know we shared information about the status of the refinery on March 24, but beyond that, it is Valero’s policy to not comment on operations or possible outages/restarts at its facilities beyond what is publicly reported,” said Lillian Riojas, a company spokeswoman.

The California Energy Commission has been in touch with Valero but does not release certain data about its operations due to regulatory restrictions, according to agency spokeswoman Sandy Louey.

But Louey said refinery issues that have played a part in recent gas price increases — including the Valero shutdown — would be coming to an end in the coming weeks.

“The Energy Commission can say that the three large refinery maintenance issues are scheduled to be resolved over a period beginning late April through the middle of May,” she said in an email.

Besides Valero, the facilities involve two in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson: a Phillips 66 refinery that suffered a fire and a Marathon Oil refinery that’s been down for planned maintenance.

The statewide average cost of a gallon of regular has increased 62 cents since Valero’s March 24 shutdown, according to AAA. It now stands at $4.006.

“We’ve had major refinery issues all spring,” said AAA Northern California spokesman Michael Blasky.  “I’ve heard it referred to as a perfect storm in the industry, with a lot of refinery incidents of flaring or shutting down for days or weeks at time.”

In fact, Chevron’s Richmond refinery experienced its seventh flaring incident of the year on Saturday, according to Contra Costa County’s chief environmental and hazardous materials officer, Randy Sawyer.  The incident caught the attention of the Oil Price Information Service.

Monday’s price marks the first time the statewide average cost for a gallon of regular has topped $4 in close to five years, Blasky said.

He said that while other factors have played a part in the rise — for instance, an increase in the price of crude oil worldwide — the refinery issues have been a major contributing factor.

“I would hope, as refineries come back to their normal levels of production, that we start to see prices level out and hopefully start to come down by mid-May,” Blasky said.

California Gas Prices Expected to Spike in Wake of Shutdown at Valero’s Benicia Refinery

Repost from KQED California Report

By Ted Goldberg, Mar 26, 2019
Valero’s Benicia refinery on March 24, 2019. (Solano County)

California drivers — or the millions of them whose cars still run on refined petroleum — can expect to pay more to fill up their gas tanks in the coming days thanks to the partial shutdown of Valero’s Benicia refinery.

The retail cost of a gallon of gasoline in the state is expected to rise immediately, according to David Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates, a transportation energy consulting company based in Irvine.

That’s after a 12-cent spike in wholesale gas prices on Monday, Hackett said.

“That price increase is likely to get passed through to motorists over the next week or so,” he said. “You’ll start seeing prices go up starting probably today.”

The average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in California is $3.51, 16 cents higher than a week ago, according to AAA.

Several agencies are investigating a series of petroleum coke dust releases at the Benicia refinery that began more than two weeks ago. Those releases intensified on Sunday, prompting city officials to issue a health advisory.

The Valero refinery’s flue gas scrubber malfunctioned, a problem that led to a sooty plume of petroleum coke to billow out of the facility’s smokestacks. To deal with the problem, the refinery is slowly shutting down a significant part of its operations.

Last week, problems at two other California refineries contributed to the recent jump in gas prices.

AAA says a fire at a crude processing unit at the Phillips 66 refinery in Los Angeles County and a series of flaring incidents at Chevron’s Richmond refinery drove prices higher.

AAA spokesman Michael Blasky said price spikes are the norm when refineries suffer problems that lead to curtailed production.

“When a refinery goes offline and supply drops, retailers incorporate price increases almost immediately in California,” Blasky said.

Wholesale suppliers that sell fuel to gas stations and hear about the Benicia refinery’s shutdown will probably go into the so-called spot market to buy gas, sending the price up, Hackett said.

The refinery problems come amid a jump in the price of crude oil over the last year, which has sent gas prices up nationally.