Category Archives: Oil Industry

Fewer Bakken oil trains when major new pipeline is operational

Repost from the Chronicle Times, Cherokee, IA
[Editor: Significant quote: “Currently, almost 100% of the 944,000 barrels of crude oil produced daily from western North Dakota oil fields moves out over the U.S. railroad system.”  – RS]

Energy Transfer sells share of Bakken Pipeline

By Loren G. Flaugh, Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Rail shipments to lessen when pipeline operational

(Photo)According to an Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. (ETP) website, ETP and Sunoco Logistics Partners, L.P. announced they had signed an agreement to sell 36.75% of the Bakken Pipeline Project to MarEn Bakken Company, LLC. Marathon Petroleum Corporation and Canada based Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. jointly own MarEn Bakken.

Marathon Petroleum and Enbridge paid $2 billion in cash for the minority share of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and its sister pipeline, the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline (ETCOP).

The DAPL consists of approximately 1,172 miles of 30-inch diameter pipeline from western North Dakota’s Bakken oil production region to the petroleum storage hub at Patoka, Illinois. The ETCOP is roughly 700 miles of existing, 30-inch diameter pipeline already converted from carrying natural gas to carrying the light sweet Bakken Crude oil. That converted pipeline starts at Patoka and terminates at Nederland, Texas near Houston.

Energy Transfer said the sale to Marathon Petroleum and Enbidge is to close in the 3rd quarter of 2016 and it’s subject to certain closing conditions. ETP will receive $1.2 billion and Sunoco will receive $800 million in cash when closing is finalized.

Energy Transfer said they plan to use the proceeds from the cash sale to pay down debt and to help fund their current growth projects.

Energy Transfer/Sunoco will own 38.25% of the DAPL. MarEn will own 36.75% and Phillips 66 will continue to own the remaining 25%. Energy Transfer will continue to oversee the ongoing construction of the approximately $3.8 billion pipeline project. Once the pipeline becomes operational later this year, Sunoco will be responsible for day-to-day operations of the pipeline.

Energy Transfer will quickly initiate another open season process and solicit additional shippers on its common-carrier crude oil pipeline to increase the daily flow rate from the current design capacity of 450,000 barrels per day to just under 600,000 barrels per day. The tariffs that ETP will assess petroleum companies that ship oil on the pipeline will pay off construction costs and provide revenue for day-to-day operations

A large subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum has already committed to participate in this upcoming open season and will make a long-term commitment to ship a large volume of Bakken crude oil to the Patoka petroleum hub. Enbridge owns crude oil storage tanks at Patoka and existing pipelines that go in to and out of this vital petroleum transshipment hub.

When ETP proposed the DAPL back on June 25, 2014, the pipeline was designed for transporting 320,000 barrels of light sweet Bakken crude oil per day. Energy Transfer said that they would solicit additional shipper interest to increase the daily flow rate. Additionally, Energy Transfer said they were in discussions with Sunoco to seek their participation in a potentially significant equity partnership.

Then on September 22, 2014, Energy Transfer announced that they intended to initiate an Expansion Open Season to acquire additional crude oil transportation services on the DAPL. This Expansion Open Season was successful when additional shippers signed long-term commitments increasing the daily throughput to 450,000 barrels per day.

With the pending ETP open season in the coming weeks, this anticipated flow-rate increase of upwards of 570,000 barrels per day will result in the DAPL moving a substantial volume of the daily crude oil produced from western North Dakota’s Bakken/Three Forks petroleum production areas.

According to the North Dakota Bakken Daily Oil Production News website, the daily production level of Bakken crude oil stood at 994,727 barrels per day as of May 31, 2016. This is a small increase from the previous month. However, both production figures are down significantly from June 30, 2015 when the Bakken oil field was producing at the rate of 1,153,000 barrels per day. The Bakken oil fields had been yielding almost 1,200,000 barrels per day in 2014 when prices for crude oil were much higher than today.

The U. S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recorded a price for crude oil at $105 per barrel in June of 2013. It was in July of 2014 when oil prices dropped below $100 per barrel. One year ago, in June of 2015, the EIA reported a price per barrel of around $60. Earlier this year, in February, the price per barrel plunged to just above $26 per barrel. Today’s price per barrel is around $40 and still expected to fall more.

The daily production rates for crude oil in the Bakken oil fields are rising and falling right along with the fluctuating prices for crude oil and will continue to due to the current over-supply of crude oil in the world oil markets.

Currently, almost 100% of the 944,000 barrels of crude oil produced daily from western North Dakota oil fields moves out over the U.S. railroad system. That is because there are no significant crude oil pipeline systems originating from the Bakken region currently available for moving this huge volume of light sweet crude oil into the broader U.S. pipeline distribution system.

Once the 600,000 barrel per day DAPL begins commercial operations later this year, it will be the first major pipeline to move Bakken crude oil. However, that still leaves about 400,000 barrels per day for railroad shipment. A 100-car Bakken crude oil unit train can carry about 3,000,000 gallons of oil.

According to North Dakota statistics, Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) hauls out about 75% of the crude oil that leaves the Bakken region. Union Pacific and CSX Corporation are other rail carriers that move Bakken crude oil. Some Bakken crude oil goes north into Canada and is moved east or west to crude oil refineries located as far east as Nova Scotia.

The most recent crude oil unit train derailment happened on June 3, 2016 when a 96-car Union Pacific unit train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed while moving through the Columbia River Gorge near Mosier, Oregon. Fourteen of the tanker cars derailed, ruptured and caught fire. Approximately 42,000 gallons of crude oil spilled. A federal investigation revealed that broken bolts joining two rails caused the accident.

The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department tracks how much Bakken crude oil moves through Iowa. According to figures from early 2015, BNSF moves Bakken crude oil through Iowa on one heavily used route through Lyon, Sioux and Plymouth Counties and into eastern Nebraska. Another heavily used BNSF route crosses southern Iowa. When daily North Dakota crude oil production rates peaked in 2014 and 2015, roughly 12 to 18 crude oil unit trains per week used the two BNSF routes.

The Association of American Railroads did a study of U. S. Rail Crude Oil Traffic in November of 2015. Their summary noted; U.S. crude oil production has risen sharply in recent years, with much of the increased output moving by rail. In 2008, U.S. Class I railroads originated 9,500 carloads of crude oil. In 2014, they originated 493,146 carloads, an increase of nearly 5,100 percent. Rail crude oil volumes in 2015 will be lower than in 2014. Additional pipelines will probably be built in the years ahead, but the competitive advantages railroads offer–including flexibility to serve disparate markets–could keep them in the crude oil transportation market long into the future.

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Exxon, other refineries affected as Louisiana waters rise

Repost from Bloomberg News
[Editor: You can count on the oil industry to prevaricate. The Baton Rouge Advocate reports that ExxonMobil released a statement disputing this Bloomberg report. “‘Contrary to some reports, the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Complex is operating. It is our practice not to comment on specific unit operations at our facilities,’ the company said.”  – RS]

Exxon Said to Slow Louisiana Refinery as People Escape Flood

By Barbara J Powell & Brian K Sullivan, August 17, 2016 6:13 AM PDT, Updated 4:14 PM PDT

• Fourth-largest U.S. refinery affected as waters rise
• Louisiana is home to about 18% of U.S. refining capacity

Exxon Mobil Corp. curbed operations at the fourth-largest U.S. refinery as record flooding in Louisiana shut roadways, sent tens of thousands fleeing from their homes and threatened the state’s oil infrastructure.

The Baton Rouge refinery along the Mississippi shut four production units and idled others when the flooding threatened an offsite liquefied petroleum gas storage facility and pumping station, a person familiar with operations said early Wednesday. The refinery can process 502,500 barrels of crude a day into gasoline, diesel and other fuels.

At least 11 people have died, 30,000 people rescued and 40,000 homes have been damaged as almost 2 feet (61 centimeters) of rain fell in parts of southern Louisiana, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. Flood warnings extended across much of the southern portions of the state with many bayous and rivers still at dangerous levels. Louisiana is home to about 18 percent of U.S. refining capacity, according to Energy Information Administration data.

Pipelines, Terminals

Most in danger from direct disruption from flooding is the support infrastructure consisting of pipelines, terminals, salt caverns and above-ground pumping stations, said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.

“Those that supply support services to refineries could be in danger of shutting down, and that could impact refineries’ operations,” Lipow said.

Todd Spitler, an Exxon spokesman, said the refinery is operating. The company doesn’t comment on specific unit operations and has continued to meet contractual commitments, he said

Through Tuesday, Baton Rouge had received 22.11 inches of rain since the start of August, more than 19 inches above normal, according to the National Weather Service. New Orleans got 7.46 inches, or 4.35 above normal; Lake Charles had 11.22 inches, or 8.69 above normal; and Lafayette logged 23.19, or 20.81 higher than the 30-year average.

Governor John Bel Edwards declared an emergency on Friday. Residents in 20 parishes are eligible for federal assistance and in two days 39,000 people have registered, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said.

Motiva Convent

Motiva Enterprises LLC said in an online message to employees Wednesday afternoon that it will staff its Convent refinery, about 38 miles southeast of Baton Rouge, with only essential personnel through at least Sunday. The company had previously said the restriction would last until Wednesday.

Angela Goodwin, a Motiva spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. She said Tuesday that operations at Motiva’s Convent and its Norco refinery, about 38 miles to the south, are stable.

Gulf Coast fuel prices climbed early Wednesday on the prospect of refinery outages. Ultra-low sulfur diesel strengthened 1 cent to 2.75 cents below New York Mercantile Exchange futures, the narrowest discount since November 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Conventional gasoline gained 1.88 cents to trade near parity with futures for the first time in four days.

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IN MEMORIAM: Benicia’s Joel Fallon: Is Crude by Rail really do or die?

Is this really adios?

[Re-posting today in memory of Joel Fallon, who died on August 11, 2016 (obituary). Joel was Benicia’s first and most beloved Poet Laureate, an inspiration to all who knew him and a thoughtful, visionary activist. Originally reposted from The Benicia Herald and here on the Benicia Independent.]

April 25, 2014 by Joel Fallon

WHAT AM I MISSING HERE? Are Benicians just kittens in a burlap sack, down by the riverside, resigned to the inevitable?

Let’s see if I’ve got this right.

(a) We’re in earthquake country (see evidence of the Green Valley fault in terrain on the way to Cordelia);

(b) We’re next to fragile wetlands (for spectacular views, click Google Maps/Benicia, hybrid setting, find rail line and follow to Sacramento);

(c) We’re contiguous with an important commercial waterway;

(d) We host an outfit whose headquarters has fought attempts to safeguard our environment (see Valero Energy Corporation’s position and funding regarding Proposition 23);

(e) A local outfit, under direction from its far-off headquarters, plans to process a dangerous, toxic product;

(f) The outfit is served by a rail system with a recent history of tank car derailment;

(g) Parts of this railroad system (built by Central Pacific RR in 1877), running through marshland to the Carquinez Strait, repeatedly sank into unstable marshy terrain, requiring hundreds of thousands of tons of rock, gravel and other materials to stabilize it;

(h) Other parts of the antique rail infrastructure seem poorly maintained and may be unsafe, e.g., the Benicia-Martinez rail bridge, built between 1928 and 1930 for Southern Pacific RR to replace the train ferry to Port Costa;

(i) Old tank cars are a problem — an area newspaper reports that BNSF railway officials told federal regulators in March of concerns that older, less robust tank cars will end up transporting crude oil because of Canadian rail pricing policies;

(j) Emergency responders are unprepared to handle spills or fires in the event of derailment of cars headed to any of five Bay Area refineries. State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, after listening to testimony from emergency responders, said, “There is a potential for very serious problems and very disastrous problems.” Chief of the Contra Costa Fire District is quoted saying, “… with the sheer volume that will be coming in, we are going to see more accidents.” The 2007-08 Solano County Grand Jury, after investigating the county’s fire districts, reports a general need for more funding, heavy dependence on dedicated volunteers and the preponderance of old fire trucks, while noting the high cost of HAZMAT suits and problems with communications caused by incompatible equipment and radio frequencies.     

And yet, despite this unbelievably horrific backdrop, certain elements in town warn us to hush lest Valero be forced out of the competitive (i.e., tar sands crude) market, destroying its “desire to remain in Benicia.”

Clearly, Valero Benicia Refinery cannot be faulted for all of the foregoing. Good workers deserve good jobs; they should be able to tell their grandkids they helped, rather than harmed, the environment. Valero Benicia is just one of many links in a chain of factors that could lead to the disaster so many in this community fear.

Am I “agenda driven” as charged? Bet your raggedy backside I am. My agenda involves doing homework to find threats to my home, my town, my state and my nation, and advising others of my findings (just in case they might care). If you detect it, yell “GAS” to alert the rest of the platoon; then put on your mask, while you can still breathe.

For a glimmer of the scope of Big Oil’s operations from sea to shining sea and beyond, see the astounding number of outfits similar to Valero Energy Corp. in the U.S and Canada. Find ’em in Wikipedia (“independent oil companies — Americas”). Select a company to see its history of oil spills. Wonder why the Keystone XL pipeline is planned to extend to Texas? Check out which corporations own the pipeline and the benefits associated with Foreign Trade Zones (32 FTZ in Texas compared to 17 in California, and 15 in New York).

If folks look around a bit they may discover that Big Oil, like Big Coal and other corporate behemoths, extends powerful influence throughout the land of the free and the home of the brave. Many were hoodwinked by Operation Iraqi Liberation, in which Big Oil colluded with Big Government to achieve absolute power of life and death over us and our enemy — the one with phantom WMDs and a vast, very real amount of oil.

Is this really adios, Pilgrim? — or just “I double-dog dare you”? I don’t believe it’s Valero’s style to leave town. It’s not in the corporation’s best interests and shouldn’t be its preferred option.

What are those options? They include:

Option 1. Stay put, but back away from risky tar sands crude and focus on products involving minimum environmental risk. Backing away for good business reasons is not the same as “backing down.” CVS decided to stop selling cigarettes. The firm considered it “the right thing to do for the good of our customers and our company. The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose — helping people on their path to better health.” Barrons online says, “We think that CVS — like anyone who quits smoking — is making a good long-term decision, even if it makes things rough short-term.” Others consider it a PR coup! CVS gained the respect of millions of customers for what is perceived as a moral and ethical decision. I shop CVS more often since they made that brilliant call; so do my friends.

Backing away from tar sands crude would take similar corporate guts; but the public would be pleased with the image of a moral, ethical, highly principled corporation — a Valero that gives a damn. Sales at Valero service stations might even increase.

Option 2. Continue to pursue tar sands crude; seeking high profitability despite increased environmental risk. The downside: prices at the pump are too high. Californians are already angry; they may avoid Valero service stations and products. I’ll urge my friends to do so. Word of mouth is powerful and spreads quickly. Contempt for an outfit that doesn’t respect its customers or our environment could lead to loss of sales in the country’s most populous state. Cesar Chavez showed us boycotts work. Most folks I know didn’t buy grapes.

Option 3. “Re-purpose” Valero’s operations in Benicia (and elsewhere) to enhance instead of degrade the environment while remaining profitable. Valero is an energy outfit. Turning to alternate sources of energy is ultimately inevitable. Valero should expand its vision and not limit itself to fossil fuels. Farmers in Ireland who grew only potatoes learned about diversification too late.

(a) Pursue wind farming if feasible and profitable. A recent Mother Earth News article about mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia cites a 2007 study that determined placing wind turbines on Coal River Mountain would provide power to 70,000 West Virginia homes while generating $1.7 million in local taxes each year. Better than ripping off the tops of mountains and dumping enormous amounts of debris into streams and rivers.

(b) Pursue solar energy if feasible and profitable. Produce solar products for sale and/or operate a solar power facility to resell power. See an article by Don Hofmann, president of RegenEn Solar LLC, looking at mountaintop removal mining and suggesting solar power instead. He recognizes there are challenges but is optimistic about lower-cost solar cells and technology in the future. He notes that the U.S. fossil fuel industry received $72 billion in subsidies from 2002 to 2006 and asks us to imagine that kind of money put into solar development.

(c) Pursue other approaches (geothermal, tidal, et al.) if appropriate and profitable.

Option 4. Determine feasibility of combining 3a, 3b and/or 3c. If appropriate and profitable, pursue the combination.

Option 1 would be the easiest and would be enthusiastically supported by most folks in Benicia, applauded by most Californians and recognized as a principled business decision.

Option 2 is the least desirable from an environmental standpoint. While profitability is high, it may incur the contempt and wrath of the public, possibly leading to damaging boycotts and a decline in profitability.

Option 3a thru 3c may seem starry-eyed, wild and outside the box. They would require imagination, foresight and courage. It can be done. CVS is showing the way and TESLA is succeeding with electrically powered cars. Examine pluses and minuses — Valero could take a quantum leap and be regarded as an industry trailblazer. Its reputation would be enhanced. Envious competitors might scoff and want Valero to take a pratfall but ultimately they would have to follow suit.

In conclusion the priority order of Valero’s options should be:

Option 1 — Most desirable (preferred)
Option 3/4 — Most “outside the box” (defer initially, but plan for the future)
Option 2 — Least desirable (avoid).

If Valero is really in the long-term energy game, it should choose Option 1 and start thinking seriously about Option 3. If, instead, its focus is on short term — high profits while risking irreparable harm to the environment — then Option 2 is their ticket.

If Valero wants to be recognized as rich, principled, brave and famous instead of rich, unscrupulous and infamous, then it should open door No. 3 as soon as possible.

Finally: I don’t believe it is “adios” for Valero Benicia Refinery. Unfortunately, I think Valero will not choose a clean path. They will probably press on with dirty tar sands crude. After that, “¿Quien sabe?”

I don’t intend to “go gentle into that good night.” Instead I prefer to “rage against the dying of the light.”

This whole thing could be like a colonoscopy, but a lot less fun.

Joel Fallon is a Benicia resident.


The Benicia Herald’s Poetry Corner was recently dedicated to Joel Fallon…

“For Joel Fallon” by Ronna Leon

Reposted from the Benicia Herald, Poetry Corner, August 19, 2016

You called them “dead Mother poems”
and scorned their cloying sentiment, easy forgiveness.
Your poem about your Mother named her Kali.
You hungered for life – anger, difficulty, competition, sex.
You insisted that wringing a tear from a stone
was superior to opening well oiled floodgates.

 

Now you are dead and my tears come unbidden
looking at the bookshelf, pulling a stubborn weed,
eating a pastry.
“Keep smiling” you’d instruct,
but I don’t want to brush these tears away,
each glistens with memory, swells with loss.
You are in them, like it or not.Ronna Leon was Benicia’s third poet laureate from 2010 to 2012


“Hope is the Thing with Feathers (Dedicated to Joel Fallon)” by Johanna Ely

Reposted from the Benicia Herald, Poetry Corner, August 19, 2016

“Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
and sings the tune without the words
and never stops-at all”
-Emily Dickinson

 

If such a tiny bird,
perhaps left for dead,
or suffering from an injured wing,
its feathers matted and torn,
finds refuge in your broken heart,
then reach inside yourself
and touch this living thing called Hope,
gently bind its limp and useless wing
with Love’s tattered cloth,
and press it to your shattered heart
until it heals,
until this lovely creature sings again,
then let it fly,
and nest in someone else’s heart,
the stranger,
the neighbor,
the old friend,
the one who just like you,
needs to hear its song.
Johanna Ely is Benicia’s current poet laureate

“Joel’s Passing” by Mary Susan Gast

Reposted from the Benicia Herald, Poetry Corner, August 19, 2016

“So, I may have been wrong after all – this damn cancer may indeed be the death of me.”
-Joel Fallon, in an email of June 30, 2016

He died on the morning of August 11.
That night, meteor showers dazzled the skies:
The Perseids, at their peak.
No reason to doubt that Joel hitched a ride
On that celestial glory train,
Meeting up with all the other streaming luminaries,
Fireball to fireball.

Mary Susan Gast served as Conference Minister of the Northern California Conference United Church of Christ, now retired, and is a member of Benicia’s First Tuesday Poetry Group
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