Tag Archives: Kinder Morgan

Video: Lockdown at Kinder Morgan

Repost video from Vimeo

Blockade the Bomb Trains! Lockdown at Kinder Morgan 4 Sept 2014

from Peter Menchini, September 5, 2014
Do bomb trains run through your neighborhood?  Oil companies are illegally shipping highly toxic and explosive tar sands oil through residential areas, and try to keep them secret.  On September 4th, 2014, activists entered Kinder Morgan rail yard in Richmond, CA and blocked the trains.  The city’s mayor came and spoke to them.

Oil-by-rail project for shut California refinery near approval

Repost from Reuters
[Editor: Significant quote: “…proposals have faced lengthy delays for comprehensive environmental reviews, public input, and revisions.  Valero Energy Corp, the largest U.S. refiner, postponed its plans to send crude by rail to its San Francisco-area refinery because of such delays, and withdrew permit applications for a similar project at its Los Angeles plant….’I think Bakersfield is probably the best place to build a rail facility in California, because it’s not sitting in San Francisco or LA, and it has access to pipes going north and south. It just seems like it’s going to be a struggle to develop rail in other locations,’ Plains’ Chief Operating Officer Harry Pefanis told analysts in May.”  – RS]

Oil-by-rail project for shut California refinery near approval

Kristen Hays, August 15 2014

(Reuters) – The first new crude-by-rail project at a California refinery is likely to win approval next month after more than a year of scrutiny, the head of the Kern County planning division told Reuters, and it could help reopen the shuttered plant.

The facility at independent refiner Alon USA Energy Inc’s Bakersfield plant would increase crude offloading capacity to 140,000 barrels per day from its current 13,000 bpd and open up significant access to cheaper inland U.S. and Canadian crudes.

Alon’s Bakersfield plant is in Kern County, home to about 65 percent of all California oil production, where crude has been produced for more than a century.

Alon shut the 70,000 bpd Bakersfield refinery in late 2012 because its reliance on more expensive imports and lack of access to other crudes without significant rail rendered the plant unprofitable.

Other California refiners also struggle with profitability because of reliance on expensive imported crude and costly fuel manufacturing regulations in the biggest gasoline market in the country.

“We’re supportive of what Alon is doing with this refinery,” said Lorelei Oviatt, director of the county’s planning and community development department. “This refinery is not operating at full capacity. We would like to see this refinery operating at full capacity.”

Alon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Alon project is among several proposed at California refineries, some of which face growing opposition in light of a spate of crude train crashes in the past year as the U.S. oil boom sent amounts of crude moving by train soaring.

The worst by far was in Quebec in July last year when a runaway crude train exploded in the town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people.

Several California refiners, largely isolated by the Rocky Mountains from the growing cheap bounty from oilfields in Texas, North Dakota and Canada, want to tap those sources via rail because no major pipelines carry crude from those areas into the Golden State, nor are any planned.

More than half of the 1.7 million barrels of crude processed by California refiners each day is imported.

But proposals have faced lengthy delays for comprehensive environmental reviews, public input, and revisions.

Valero Energy Corp, the largest U.S. refiner, postponed its plans to send crude by rail to its San Francisco-area refinery because of such delays, and withdrew permit applications for a similar project at its Los Angeles plant.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners operates the state’s most substantial oil-by-rail facility at a terminal in Richmond, which handles up to 72,000 bpd. Local planners last year approved, without an environmental review, a revised ethanol offloading permit to allow the terminal to handle crude. But opponents are suing to temporarily shut it down and force that kind of review.

Tesoro Corp faces similar growing opposition for a 360,000-bpd railport project in southwest Washington state that could ship crude to California refineries by tanker.

That could let California refiners – which includes Tesoro’s Los Angeles-area plant – replace more than 40 percent of more expensive imported oil with North American crudes if all of it were shipped to the state.

Alon is considering possibly leaving the Bakersfield refinery shut and running the facility as a rail and logistics terminal.

If the refinery remains shut, the rail operation would be similar to a separate 70,000-bpd oil-by-rail facility Plains All American plans to open in October and eventually expand to 140,000 bpd. That project was approved two years ago before it was acquired by Plains.

Alon bought the Bakersfield plant out of bankruptcy in 2010 from Flying J Inc, which had shut it in early 2009 shortly after seeking bankruptcy protection. Alon restarted the hydrocracker in the summer of 2011, but operational problems led to more shutdowns and startups.

David Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates, a refining consultancy in Irvine, California, said the refinery’s spotty operational history may better support a future as a rail hub.

“They haven’t run it as a refinery in a long time. I don’t think they’ll restart Bakersfield, and I don’t understand why they didn’t pull this off two years ago,” he said.


Bakersfield sits in the center of the state’s oil production where the oil industry is long established. Plains executives have said its crude-friendly climate and existing infrastructure make the area more attractive for such projects.

“I think Bakersfield is probably the best place to build a rail facility in California, because it’s not sitting in San Francisco or LA, and it has access to pipes going north and south. It just seems like it’s going to be a struggle to develop rail in other locations,” Plains’ Chief Operating Officer Harry Pefanis told analysts in May.

Alon had hoped to have its Bakersfield rail project up and running by the end of 2013, but it, like others in the state, underwent a lengthy environmental review and public comment.

Oviatt said the Kern County planning department had considered all issues during that review, including safety and spill preparedness.

Now the project is slated to go before the county’s board of supervisors for a vote at a Sept. 9 public hearing. Oviatt, who is not one of the five members of the board, said she expected a final decision at that time.

The planning department has signed off on it, and Oviatt said the board tended to be supportive of business.

“I can’t say how the board would vote, but I do believe that given their business-friendly attitude, they’re going to take all of this into serious consideration.”

(Reporting by Kristen Hays in Houston; Editing by Terry Wade, Lisa Shumaker, Jessica Resnick-Ault and Phil Berlowitz)

KQED: Routes revealed for BNSF trains hauling volatile crude oil in California

Repost from KQED Science
[Editor: Of great interest for many in California, but lacking any comment on the Union Pacific rail line that transports freight to Benicia and over the Benicia Bridge to Contra Costa County and the East Bay.  Latest on the Union Pacific line as of 6/27/14: The Riverside Press Enterprise reports that “Union Pacific submitted a letter May 29 to the state office, saying the company was “compiling and reviewing the data.”  – RS]

Revealed: Routes for Trains Hauling Volatile Crude Oil in California

Molly Samuel, KQED Science | June 25, 2014
A BNSF train carrying crude oil passes through downtown Sacramento. (Courtesy of Jake Miille)
A BNSF train carrying crude oil passes through downtown Sacramento. (Jake Miille)

State officials have released routing information for trains carrying a volatile grade of crude oil through California.

The newly released information reveals that tank cars loaded with oil from the Bakken formation, a volatile crude that has a history of exploding, rumble through downtown Sacramento and through Stockton about once a week. Before they get there, they travel along the Feather River, a major tributary of the Sacramento and a key source of drinking water. They pass through rural Northern California counties — Modoc, Lassen, Placer, Plumas, Yuba and Butte — before reaching their destination in Contra Costa County.

This is the first time that information about the trains’ routing in California and their frequency has been made public. About once a week, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train enters the state from Oregon, headed for the Kinder Morgan rail yard in Richmond. Each train is carrying a million gallons or more of Bakken crude.

“The purpose of the information is really to give first responders better awareness of what’s coming through their counties,” says Kelly Huston, a deputy director at the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The notifications (shown below) provided by BNSF to the state list the counties through which the trains pass, and the average number of trains per week. They’re retrospective, reporting what’s already happened, rather than looking ahead to what trains could be coming.

“Right now the information, because it’s not very specific, is being used as an awareness tool,” said Huston.

An emergency order issued by the federal Department of Transportation requires railroads to notify emergency responders about large shipments of Bakken crude. BNSF had asked the OES to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which state officials refused to do. After keeping the notifications secret from the public for a few weeks, the state decided to release them on Wednesday, following the lead of other states that had already done so.

“We think it is very important that those responsible for security and emergency planning have such information to ensure that proper planning and training are in place for public safety,” Roxanne Butler, a spokeswoman for BNSF, wrote in an email. “But we also continue to urge discretion in the wider distribution of specific details.”

The DOT issued the order after a series of fiery derailments involving Bakken crude in Alabama, North Dakota and Virginia, among other states. Last July, a train carrying oil from the Bakken exploded in a town in Quebec, killing 47 people.

MAP: State officials have confirmed that crude is traveling by rail in the counties shaded gray on the map, below. Also shown are rail lines owned by California’s two major railroads, BNSF and UP, which share some of the lines. Click on the rail lines or counties to see identifying information. Not all lines shown in the shaded areas carry Bakken crude. (Map produced by Lisa Pickoff-White)

California Crude-by-Rail Shipments by KQED News

“We want the rail companies to do everything they can to ensure public safety,” said Diane Bailey of the Natural Resources Defense Council. She says there are three things that would help assuage her concerns: safer rail cars, slower speed limits, and making sure the trains are always staffed.

Butler said the railroads themselves have also pushed to phase out the DOT-111 railcars that have been involved in the accidents. “The rail industry also implemented a number of additional safety operating practices several months ago to reduce the risk of moving crude by rail,” she wrote, “including lower speed limits and had addressed the train securement issue in August of 2013 as part of the Federal Railroad Administration’s emergency order.”

California lawmakers have introduced bills that would provide more money for oil spill response, and require more information from railroads about hazardous materials. The recently-passed California budget includes a fee on oil entering California by rail, which would help fund the state’s Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response. It also provides more money to the California Public Utilities Commission for rail safety inspectors.

Transporting crude oil by rail is a burgeoning business, thanks to an oil boom in North Dakota. In 2013, more than 6 million barrels of crude oil came into California by rail. In 2008, there were none.

California Crude-by-Rail Weekly Tracking

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly included Davis in the list of cities the trains pass through.

Request to Martinez City Council: moratorium on crude by rail

Repost from The Martinez Gazette

Martinez Environmental Group: Martinez moratorium resolution, facts to consider

May 11, 2014 | by GUY COOPER,  Special to the Gazette

The Martinez Environmental Group presented a resolution to the City Council May 7, proposing opposition to increased crude-by-rail (CBR) traffic through our city, mirroring similar resolutions and expressions of concern already proffered by Berkeley, Richmond, Davis, Benicia, and many other communities along the tracks. The following is what I wish I would have said in support at that meeting if I hadn’t chickened out.

A major attraction of Martinez is its status as a transportation hub. People commute and travel via Amtrak. There are connections to BART and bus destinations north, south, east and west. The train brings people to our town, sometimes for the first time. They stop, stroll, eat, drink, shop. I’ve talked to many of them. They like what they see, are amazed by the friendliness of the locals. Many are surprised such a town even exists huddled beside those hulking refineries. Basically, they come and go with a good impression that can’t hurt.

Personally, I love being able to jump on the train, catch a Giants game, make a trip to the City or Jack London Square for an event, or head towards Davis, Sacramento, or Truckee for a weekend. Naturally, money is spent on tickets, restaurants, hotels, etc.

If WestPac, Tesoro, Valero, Kinder Morgan, Chevron and Phillips 66 have their way, we could see five to six oil trains a day pass through. Each train consists of about 100 tanker cars. Each car holds about 30,000 gallons of crude. So each train contains about 3 million gallons, is over a mile long, and weighs about 28 million pounds.

A major consideration: How much can our 85-year-old rusty Benicia/Martinez rail trestle tolerate? Has it ever had to endure that kind of traffic before? What’s the frequency of inspections and maintenance of that span? None of this info is easily accessible. The Coast Guard and rail companies have haggled over a bridge refurb for years. How can it be done without contaminating the water, and who’s going to pay for it? Meanwhile, nothing happens. A few years back Channel 4 did a piece on the trestle, noting the heavy rust, separated metal and bent bolts. I guess it was stoutly built way back when, but how long can we expect our elderly bridge to endure an onslaught not seen since WWII? If the rail bridge failed under the load of one of these trains … well, I don’t even want to contemplate that disaster.

These oil trains would use the same tracks used by the California Zephyr, the Capital Corridor commuters, the Coast Starlight.

Farmers, industrial customers, and rail passengers in the heartland of this country are already complaining about train delays and freight delivery impacts due to oil train traffic kludging up the system. What exactly will the local economic impact be if passenger rail schedules are severely disrupted?

Have you noticed the increase in delays lately just trying to get across the tracks to the waterfront as oil trains are built, rolling back and forth, attaching more cars, blocking traffic?

Exactly what economic impact do the local refineries have? Taxes, wages … I’d like to see the details. And please, not the contributions to local causes. For them, that’s just a drop in the PR bucket. What about the health effects of the carcinogens and other toxics spewed into our local environment? We rate amongst the worst in the country in that regard, because of the refineries. What are those costs? The more trains, the more detrimental health impacts. These trains out-gas toxic stuff while unloading or just sitting. Has that been factored into the cost/benefit mix? How about emergency response costs? Not just in responding to a sudden emergency, but in equipping and staffing for the eventuality. Are the oil producers and refiners offering to cover those costs?

Here’s some more math. These so-called “Bakken Bombers” carry a crude that has been likened to gasoline in volatility. One gallon of gas is equivalent to the explosive power of 63 sticks of dynamite. A Bakken Bomber contains about 3 million gallons, or the equivalent of 189,000,000 sticks of dynamite. You know, I’ve been to Hiroshima, Japan. A sobering experience. The power of the bomb that flattened that city was rated at 12 kilotons, or equivalent to 4.8 million sticks of TNT. So one Bakken Bomber train could potentially contain the explosive power of 39 Hiroshimas.

My point is, there is very little benefit to our city hosting this exponential increase in oil train traffic. And much at risk. Any one of these trains could annihilate our town or indelibly poison our water front. It’s just not worth it.

I believe the City of Martinez should be acutely concerned about this issue and wish to join our neighboring municipalities in conveying that concern to the powers at the state and federal levels that can do something about it. So I ask that the City Council call for a moratorium on crude-by-rail until all safety and health concerns are remedied. Vote to pass our resolution.