Category Archives: Valero Benicia Refinery

Martinez to Benicia: Oil Refinery Protest Draws About 100 Demonstrators

Repost from the East Bay Express
[Editor: Many thanks to the East Bay Express for excellent coverage of this colorful and important event (below).  Benicia old timers were heard to say that sleepy little Benicia has probably NEVER seen a protest demonstration like this.  Check out two facebook pages for great photos of the day: facebook.com/stopcrudebyrail AND facebook.com/events/220829548127114/?ref=22.  – RS]

East Bay Oil Refinery Protest Draws About 100 Demonstrators

Jean Tepperman —  Mon, May 19, 2014

Accompanied by a four-kayak flotilla and a fifth-generation Martinez resident on horseback, about one hundred environmental activists marched seven miles from Martinez to Benicia on Saturday to protest the local toxic pollution and global climate impact of Bay Area oil refineries. The march was spearheaded by a Bay Area group affiliated with Idle No More, an organization of Canadian First Nations people fighting development of the tar sands oil fields in Alberta and other environmentally destructive projects on their traditional lands.

refinery_walk1_5-17.jpeg

Kelly Johnson

Specific targets of the protest were proposed expansion projects at the Chevron (Richmond), Valero (Benicia), and Phillips 66 (Rodeo) refineries, a crude oil transportation terminal in Pittsburg planned by energy infrastructure company WesPac, and the major investment of Shell (Martinez) in the Canadian tar sands mines. The Saturday march was the second of four planned Refinery Corridor Healing Walks — the first, from Pittsburg to Martinez, was held in April, and future walks are planned for June and July, ending up at Chevron in Richmond. The series of walks aims to “connect the dots” to “bring awareness to the refinery communities, invite community members to get to know one another, and to show support for a just transition beyond fossil fuels,” according to the group’s website.

At a gathering at the Martinez Regional Shoreline before the march, a winner of this year’s Goldman environmental prize, South African Desmond D’Sa, described the high rates of leukemia, cancer, and asthma in his home town of Durban and the community’s struggles against Shell Oil there, urging the crowd to “fight them (refineries) wherever they are.” Penny Opal Plant, of the East Bay Idle No More group, said she only recently began to conceive of the refinery corridor as a total area suffering from the “immense devastation” caused by oil refineries.

Richmond residents have long protested pollution from Chevron, most recently the toxic explosion that sent 15,000 seeking medical treatment in August 2012. Benicia residents have also organized to oppose environmental hazards. In the last year, local groups have also formed in Pittsburg, Crockett-Rodeo, and Martinez to protest refinery expansion and transportation plans, including major increases in the amount of crude oil to be carried by rail through the Bay Area and beyond.

Describing the dangers of mining, refining, and transporting oil, and looking ahead to a future free from fossil fuel, Opal Plant said, “We are Mother Earth’s immune response awakening. We’re born at this time to do this thing.”

refinery_walk2_5-17.jpeg

Kelly Johnson

The group’s route first went through the Shell refinery, then over the bridge to Benicia, with a view of the Valero refinery there. From a hilltop vista point next to Carquinez Strait, Benicia activist Marilyn Bardet pointed out refineries and planned oil industry project sites, as well as the environmentally Suisun Marsh. Railroad tracks leading to the Valero refinery, she said, go right through the marsh. A spill of tar sands crude oil, she added, would be impossible to clean up because the oil is so heavy it would sink and cause irreparable damage.

The next Refinery Corridor Healing walk is scheduled to go from Benicia to the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo on June 14.

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Mexico’s Pemex now shipping light crude to U.S. West Coast, including Valero Benicia

Repost from Reuters

Mexico’s Pemex quietly resumes light crude sales to U.S. West Coast

May 18, 2014

May 18 (Reuters) – Mexico’s Pemex has quietly begun shipping light Isthmus crude to a variety of West Coast refiners this year, according to U.S. and Reuters data, resuming such sales after a six-year hiatus.

The state-run oil company, which exported only about 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Isthmus last year, shipped about 340,000 barrels of the crude to Valero Energy Corp at Benicia, California, in January and February, according to U.S. government data.

It sent another 350,000 barrels (48,000 tonnes) to Tesoro Corp in San Francisco in March, according to Eikon’s trade flow database based on PIERS data. Pemex then exported another 150,000 barrels to Shell Trading at Anacortes, Washington, in May from the Salina Cruz terminal.

Isthmus is typically shipped to Gulf Coast and East Coast ports including Beaumont and Corpus Christi, Texas and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The move is the latest in a series of new export contracts that Pemex has announced, aimed at diversifying the company’s base of clients. Pemex said it began shipping Olmeca crude to Europe in January, and last month said it started shipments of Isthmus to Hawaii.

A sweeping energy overhaul in Mexico passed late last year and pushed by President Enrique Peña Nieto seeks to inject competition into a sector dominated for decades by Pemex and to boost domestic crude output, which has fallen by a quarter since 2004 to about 2.5 million bpd.

Over the same period, the country’s oil export volumes have dropped by a third.

The light, sweet grade of Isthmus crude oil with 33.6 API degrees is mainly produced in the southern Gulf of Mexico’s Campeche zone with a principal loading port at Pajaritos.

Pemex had halted exports of Maya crude to the U.S. West Coast in 2008.

The Mexican oil giant exported a total of 1.2 million bpd of crude oil last year.

Pemex normally supplies Exxon Mobil Corp one monthly cargo of 500,000 barrels in Houston. Pemex also delivers Total Petrochemicals at Port Arthur, Texas, 150,000 barrels of Isthmus monthly.

Citgo Petroleum, PBF Holding, Atlantic Trading, Chevron and Shell also buy varying sized cargoes of Isthmus occasionally.

(Reporting by David Alire Garcia in Mexico and Marianna Parraga in Houston; editing by Jessica Resnick-Ault and G Crosse)
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Benicia Herald op ed: Do Benicians want tar-sands oil brought here?

Repost from The Benicia Herald

Do Benicians want tar-sands oil brought here?

THE RAVAGES OF tar sands extraction in Alberta, Canada. Sierra Club

By Roger Straw

MANY THANKS TO BENICIA HERALD REPORTER Donna Beth Weilenmann for her detailed report, “Valero rail project: City has no control over oil source” (June 12). It is unfortunate that City Manager Brad Kilger is quoted saying, “The city does not have the authority to control the refinery’s crude sources.”

The source of Valero’s crude is important — here in Solano County, and globally. Since the city can’t control it, perhaps those of us who live here should persuade our friendly giant Valero to stay away from Canadian tar-sands oil of its own volition.

The world is dying, not so slowly, from the burning of fossil fuels. The most polluting of these fuels is mined in Alberta, Canada, where investors are extracting a thick, tar-like substance called “bitumen” from deep layers of sand. This sludge is blasted out of the sand with heated water. Millions of gallons of water are used daily, which first must be heated by natural gas, so the process is not energy efficient and can never be truly competitive with regard to “return on investment” after all costs are factored.

Moreover, additional costs are too often not accounted for — in particular the destruction of miles and miles of pristine northern boreal forests, and in their place the creation of a hellish network of open pit mines, wells, roads, pipes and hundreds of toxic “lakes” from the water used in the extraction process. The destruction has expanded to an area larger than Ohio or Pennsylvania.

Next comes the problem of creating a “blend” of crude oil from the tar-like bitumen that is fluid enough to be transportable by pipeline (Keystone XL), or now by rail. The gazillion-dollar heated railroad cars, we are told by Mr. Kilger, who cites a study paid for by Valero, are “specifically designed not to rupture,” and the city, county, state and feds are all well-prepared to take care of any emergency.

Sure. Tell that to the residents who live near Kalamazoo, Mich., where my daughter was born. We have friends and family nearby there, and their story of leaked tar-sands crude is horrific. After spending more than $765 million on a three-year cleanup there, the Kalamazoo River is still plagued by sunken heavy balls of tar-sands bitumen, threatening habitat, wildlife and human health. For background, see “April Flooding Could Affect Cleanup of 2010 Michigan Oil Spill,” by David Hasemyer:

“Removing dilbit (diluted bitumen) from water is more difficult than removing conventional oil because the chemicals used to thin the bitumen gradually evaporate, while the bitumen sinks to the river bottom.”

Imagine that gunk flowing into our Suisun Marsh after a train derailment — what would that look like? For an idea, read InsideClimate News’ Pulitzer Prize-winning authors’ “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of,” about “a project that began with a seven-month investigation into the million-gallon spill of Canadian tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010. It broadened into an examination of national pipeline safety issues, and how unprepared the nation is for the impending flood of imports of a more corrosive and more dangerous form of oil.”

We in Benicia — including our neighbors in positions of influence at Valero — need to do some very important homework and ask a lot of questions before this new crude-by-rail project is approved. Imagine a disaster here, or better yet, imagine no opportunity for one. The hearing at the Planning Commission is set for July 11. Comments should be sent by July 1 to City Manager Brad Kilger at City Hall, 250 East L St., Benicia, or by email to bkilger@ci.benicia.ca.us.

Roger Straw is a Benicia resident.

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