Category Archives: Tar sands crude

Washington Agency Votes to Reject Massive Oil-by-Rail Terminal

Repost from DeSmogBlog

Washington Agency Votes to Reject Vancouver Energy’s Massive Oil-by-Rail Terminal

By Justin Mikulka • Wednesday, November 29, 2017 – 10:29
Portland, Oregon, bridge with banner reading 'Coal oil gas none shall pass'
Portland, Oregon, bridge with banner reading ‘Coal oil gas none shall pass’

In another major blow to the West Coast oil-by-rail industry, a Washington state agency voted unanimously to recommend Governor Jay Inslee reject the Vancouver Energy oil terminal. Proposed for construction in Vancouver, Washington, along the Columbia River, it would be the largest oil-by-rail facility in the country.

Washington State’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) has been reviewing the project since 2013 — reportedly the longest review period ever for the council. However, its November 28 meeting and vote on the final recommendation for the Tesoro Savage–backed project only took 10 minutes.

Given the reality of climate change, there is simply no reason to build new fossil fuel infrastructure, especially for the export of extreme oil,” said Matt Krogh of activist group Stand, one of many groups opposing the Vancouver Energy project. “The entire reason behind this proposal was to move crude oil from the middle of North America to overseas markets. Simply put, this oil is not for us — and the proposal would leave every single community along the rail lines with all of the risk and none of the reward.”

Vancouver Energy told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the council has “set an impossible standard” for new energy facilities in Washington.

Proposed by Tesoro Savage Petroleum Terminal LLC (also known as Vancouver Energy), the facility is designed to handle 360,000 barrels of oil per day. Expectations are that the facility would receive both the highly volatile light Bakken oil as well as Canadian tar sands oil, with much of it traveling through the Columbia River Gorge. In 2016 an oil train derailed and caught fire in Mosier, Oregon, with some of the oil ending up in the Columbia River, which has already been suffering major declines of its once-historic salmon populations.

Map of proposed Vancouver Energy oil by rail terminal on the Columbia River
A map of the proposed facility from its Final Environmental Impact Statement. Credit: Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal Facility

Despite lower oil prices, U.S. imports of Canadian tar sands oil reached record levels in 2017 and are currently at 3.3 million barrels per day. More of that oil has been moving by rail recently, and as overall tar sands production continues to rise, industry observers predict large potential increases in shipping more of it by rail over the next several years.

Rich Kruger, CEO of tar sands producer Imperial (the Canadian affiliate of ExxonMobil), recently commented on how rail was becoming more attractive as a way to get oil to America.

Rail is increasingly competitive,” Kruger told Bloomberg. “There are times when we look at the pipeline alternative, [but] the variable cost aspect of rail is a more attractive means for us to get to the mid-Western or Gulf coast markets.”

West Coast Oil-by-Rail Plans

Should Washington Governor Inslee, who has 60 days to make a final decision, follow the recommendation to reject the Vancouver Energy oil terminal, it would throw a major wrench in oil industry plans for Canadian tar sands and Bakken oil in the West. As DeSmog reported in June, oil-by-rail remains part of the industry’s long-term plans to get oil to West Coast refineries.

If Governor Inslee stops this project, it will join the growing list of oil terminals in the West rejected after intense local opposition. Earlier this month a California court ruled that an oil refinery and rail project in Bakersfield could not proceed because its environmental review was inadequate.

Earlier this year the Washington Supreme Court voted unanimously to deny an oil-by-rail project in Grays Harbor because that project lacked a comprehensive environmental review that considered the Ocean Resources Management Act.

Also in 2017, a proposed Phillips 66 oil-by-rail project in California was voted down by the San Luis Obispo County planning commission. In 2016 the city council in Benicia, California, voted unanimously to reject Valero’s proposed oil-by-rail project.

Growing awareness of the risks of oil train terminals has led many communities where they are proposed to back away from such projects.

Local Election Was Proxy Vote on Vancouver Oil Terminal

Because Vancouver Energy’s proposed oil-by-rail facility is sited in the Port of Vancouver, a recent electoral race for one of the port commission’s three seats became a proxy fight over the oil terminal.

The race was between Don Orange, owner of a local auto repair shop and opponent of the oil-by-rail project, and Kris Greene, an insurance agent who was backed by large amounts of money from oil and rail corporations. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Greene raised “nearly $600,000, with 87 percent coming from Vancouver Energy and backers of the project” and also received support from a PAC, funded in part by rail company BNSF and Tesoro, which spent $160,000.

However, Orange also raised close to $400,000, with considerable support coming from the Washington Conservation Voters Action Fund.

Orange thought there was little question why so much money was pouring into a local election for a seat on a commission that pays around $10,000 a year.

This is a choice of what our economy should look like,” said Orange. “It is a choice of having a vibrant small business economy or becoming a big oil town.”

The election’s results showed how the majority of the community felt about the oil-by-rail project: despite being outspent by Greene, Orange won over 64 percent of the vote.

Current port commissioner Eric LaBrant was shocked by the results, saying, “I’ve never seen anything like this in local politics … This election shows where the community wants to go and what kind of business the community wants to have there at the port.”

Still, the final decision on the oil terminal lies with the governor, and even then, the door remains open for either side to take legal action.

Main image: People’s Climate March PDX Credit: David SierralupeCC BY 2.0

 

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Call to Action: Air District as apologist for Big Oil, Phillips 66

Letter to the editor by Larnie Fox, Benicia
August 15, 2017

Phillips 66 Marine Terminal Permit Revision

Larnie Fox, Benicia CA

Last night I attended a Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) presentation on Phillips 66’s plan to expand their marine terminal. It was sponsored by Solano County Supervisor, Monica Brown, and held in Benicia’s City Hall. Five or six BAAQMD staff members were present, as were many members of the community and members of community organizations. Monica Brown deserves our thanks for bringing this issue to light.

The BAAQMD made a short and somewhat vague presentation. It is now soliciting public input before preparing an environmental impact report. The project would allow Phillips 66 to double the amount of tankers coming through the Bay to their refinery in Rodeo, (4½ miles upwind of us in Benicia), but they couldn’t say what kind of crude the tankers would be carrying.

In the ensuing Q & A, it became clear to everyone present that the company plans to bring in crude from the Canadian tar sands – the BAAQMD staff members did not deny this. It also became apparent that taxpayers would bear much of the cost of any fires or spills.

Not all crude oils are alike. Tar sands crude is dirty, heavy, and corrosive. Because of its density, it will sink to the bottom of the Bay (and kill everything there) if it is spilled, making an effective cleanup nearly impossible. In order to ship it, it needs to be mixed with benzene and other volatile carcinogens prone to explosions and fires. It is dirty – releasing more toxins and carcinogens when processed than ordinary crude. It is considered a “sour” crude, which means it has a high sulfur content. This makes it more likely to corrode tanks, pipes, and oil tankers – leading to leaks and explosions.

I was very disappointed to see that BAAQMD staff were acting as apologists for big oil in our City Hall. Their mission is to protect our air, not to protect the profits of Phillips 66.

Most of the oil refined here will be shipped to Asia. The cost in terms of the environment and our health is not worth it. California now produces one-third of its electric power from wind and solar. Electric cars are becoming affordable; many homes have solar panels on them where they can charge their new electric cars. As we enter the age of clean fuels, we are free to move away from fossil fuels, and their associated environmental catastrophes.

I don’t aspire to be an activist. I am a working artist, and I would much rather be in my studio. Perhaps you don’t aspire to be an activist either, but what Phillips 66 is proposing is an unacceptable threat to all downwind of it and will contribute to climate change and environmental degradation. It requires a concerted effort to stop it, now.

What to do:

Contact the BAAQMD before August 28 with your views on the Phillips 66 project. The email they provided for this purpose is <P66MarineTerminalPermitRevision@baaqmd.gov>.

Contact your elected officials, local, state and national, and urge them to ask the BAAQMD to deny the project.  [Editor: Find Your Elected Officials]

Post information about the project on social media and write letters to editors.


Editor: More info here:
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Tar Sands/Oil Sands Carbon Footprint Underestimated by Nearly 25%

Repost from The Energy Mix

Tar Sands/Oil Sands Carbon Footprint Underestimated by Nearly 25%

Inside Climate News, by Lisa Song, April 4, 2017
BeforeItStarts/flickr

In a finding that should resonate strongly for Canadian decision-makers charged with meeting the country’s climate targets, new research reveals that the carbon footprint of a litre of synthetic crude extracted from tar sands/oil sands bitumen is more than 23% greater than previously estimated.

The elevated figure, reported by InsideClimate News, is based on an assessment conducted by the U.S. State Department in the course of its consideration of a still-pending application by Calgary’s Enbridge Inc. to expand its Alberta Clipper pipeline to deliver synthetic tar sands/oil sands crude to Wisconsin. It updates an earlier finding produced by the same agency in 2014, during its consideration of TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone XL pipeline.

That assessment, ICN recalls, determined that “compared to other sources of oil that American refineries might use, the tar sands would be about 17% more polluting on average.” The calculation contributed to then-President Barack Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL proposal, a decision recently reversed by his pro-fossil successor.

A more recent review of Enbridge’s proposed line, however, produced “a gloomier picture of emissions.”

Employing “the most up-to-date studies and tools, including a model known as GREET, developed by the federal Argonne National Laboratory, which calls it the ‘gold standard’ for this kind of calculation,” the latest assay found that on a comprehensive “well-to-wheels” basis, “tar sands crude would have a carbon footprint of 632 kilograms per barrel, compared to an average U.S. refinery mix of 521 kilograms per barrel of carbon dioxide emissions. The difference is 111 kilograms per barrel—21 percent dirtier, not 17 percent.”

The four percentage-point difference in the new calculation means the full carbon footprint of tar sands/oil sands production, distribution, and use is 23.5% heavier than previously thought.

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