Category Archives: Offloading procedures

Offloading crude oil unit train causes terrible smells

Repost from The Natchez Democrat

Pungent odor has company holding nose

By Vershal Hogan  |  April 26, 2014

NATCHEZ — A spokeswoman for Genesis Energy said the company is looking into what may have made a delivery of crude oil to its Natchez terminal last week particularly malodorous.

Genesis operates a crude oil unloading facility in the Natchez-Adams County Port. Unit trains — that is, large transport trains — bring the oil to the port area, where Genesis loads it onto barges destined for the Gulf Coast refinery markets.

When a train was unloaded April 19, the crude oil was unusually smelly, and the smell was logged at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office as a hazardous materials incident, and the Natchez Fire Department responded to the area.

“We are looking into what caused it, because it was a little more noticeable than normal, and we are looking into ways to mitigate it in the future,” Genesis Spokeswoman Jennifer Stewart said.

Stewart said the smell was that of an intensified odor associated with crude oil, while Natchez Fire Chief Oliver Stewart said fire crews were looking for a natural gas leak based on the smell.

Chief Stewart said in addition to the fire department, Atmos Energy, which is also located in the port area, helped with the hunt for the smell with its leak-detecting equipment, he said.

Gene Perkins, who lives in the area, likewise said he smelled natural gas associated with the train. Perkins said last Saturday was not the only time that has occurred.

“The smell is so strong sometimes we get to where we can’t go outside,” he said.

“I am not trying to cause any problems for anybody. I would just like for the smell to go away.”

Perkins said based on conversations he has had with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, he believes the odor is associated with the cleaning of the tanks Genesis unloads.

Jennifer Stewart said that’s not the case because Genesis doesn’t clean the tanks in Natchez.

“They are unloaded, and then they are sent back to where they came from,” she said.

“We are strictly an unloading and loading facility.”

Jennifer Stewart said Genesis does not use any chemicals that smell like natural gas at the Natchez facility, but does use some natural gas in its operations.

Benician Roger Straw: Growing opposition to Valero Crude by Rail

Repost from The Benicia Herald

For Benicia’s sake, stop Crude by Rail

March 27, 2014 – by Roger Straw

MANY THANKS TO THE BENICIA HERALD for its detailed coverage of Valero’s presentation earlier this week on its Crude-by-Rail Project. Donna Beth Weilenman’s lengthy report presented the very best in understanding Valero’s message.

I was somewhat disappointed, however. A small but growing segment of Benicia residents and business owners attended Valero’s meeting, offering a peaceful presence and an alternative view on crude by rail. Other news sources, including a nearby newspaper, two TV stations, two radio stations and a couple of blogs included references to the strong public opposition to Valero’s proposal at that meeting. Ms. Weilenman’s report virtually ignored the public’s input on that night.

Benicians need to hear Valero’s point of view, but a variety of voices made “news” at the actual event, and folks need to know about that as well.

The residents and businesses of Benicia have been waiting since last July for Valero to present its facts and to sell its proposal to bring North American crude oil by railroad tank car into our community. We can expect highly financed and professional messaging to promote their plan. Thanks to a recent paid ad in a local magazine and this week’s community meeting, we now know how Valero will focus our attention — and in some cases, misdirect our legitimate concerns.

We learned at this meeting, finally, that Valero clearly does not rule out importing train cars full of highly volatile Bakken crude oil and the world’s dirtiest crude from the tar sands of Canada.

After its presentation, when Valero opened the meeting for questions and answers, I must admit that I was surprised by the preponderance of questions expressing deep concern for the health and safety of Benicia. Well over 80 percent of the questions asked were cautiously skeptical and highly concerned about safety and the environment. I took notes on each of the approximately 24 questions asked, with the following results: Nine were about emergency spills and explosions, four were about the source and crude oil content of Valero’s rail shipments, two were about failure-prone DOT-111 tank cars, and one each concerned train routing, traffic in the Industrial Park and permitting of the proposed project.

Following each question, a panel member or representative of Valero or Union Pacific gave a brief answer. Many in attendance, including myself, felt that some of the answers were almost glib, and all were calculated to smooth over every public concern.

We were assured over and over again that Valero’s excellent safety record, thorough planning, and yet-to-be passed new federal and state regulations would protect us from a catastrophic spill or explosion. This in the face of recent news reports on the massive increase in crude-by-rail shipments and the inevitable skyrocketing numbers of horrific explosions and spills over the last year.

We were assured over and over again that no additional or adverse pollution would result, supposedly because trains give off fewer emissions than ships. This totally ignores easily available background on the environmentally destructive methods of crude oil extraction in the Bakken region of North Dakota and tar sands mining in Canada, and the excessive corrosive effects and additional toxic emissions when refining extreme crudes. No one asked Valero at this meeting to address the 100 connect-disconnect operations every day on tank cars as opposed to a single connect-disconnect of a docked ship once a week. How will these repetitive operations add to what are known as “fugitive emissions,” not to mention a massive increase in risk for spills and accidents?

I usually call myself a liberal. In this instance, I am a deeply conserving skeptic. Please, Valero — I know that you work for Texas executives who guide your actions here, but as you mentioned at your meeting this week, 50 percent of your management and more than 100 Valero employees live here in Benicia. You are our neighbors. Please help us protect our lives and our city, and stand with us on behalf of communities uprail and downwind of Benicia. Ask Valero’s Texas executives to rethink their strategies for the future of energy production. Valero could lead the way in the oil industry. Everyone knows that refining of crude oil is a dying enterprise. In the next 50 years Valero will need to retool to produce energy in cleaner and safer ways. There is no need to grasp at the last, most dirty and dangerous barrels of crude to make a quick buck.

Listen to concerned Benicians and folks from communities uprail and downwind of here — stop the Crude-by-Rail Project.

More information is available at and

Roger Straw is a Benicia resident [and editor of The Benicia Independent].

Animation of potential blast zone: crude oil unit train arriving in Benicia, California

Repost from YouTube
This 1-minute video superimposes a 1-mile blast zone over the tracks in Benicia’s Industrial Park.  Of particular interest near the end of the video is the MOVING blast zone, which shows how the proposed 4000-foot 50-car “bomb trains” would roll right past Valero and progress almost to the Benicia Bridge before coming to a stop, then back in to Valero’s offloading racks.

Thanks to Constance Beutel for this graphic illustration of the potential for a catastrophic accident in our beloved little town.

Help organize to stop crude by rail in Benicia – go to and

Government pamphlet: Bureau of Explosives

Attachment: Pamphlet 34 – Recommended Methods for the Safe Loading and Unloading of Non-Pressure (General Service) and Pressure Tank Cars

From the Editor, The Benicia Independent …

Valero proposes to offload 100 tanker cars every day.  Each car will undergo highly technical and potentially dangerous operations where safety caps are manually removed and valves are tested before hoses can be attached, relief valves opened, and the offload valve is fully opened.  At each step in this complicated procedure, fugitive emissions can be added to the air, and minor test spills are intentional and routine.  Question: will Valero follow the guidelines of the Federal Department of Transportation, Bureau of Explosives?  How much do 100 such offloading procedures every day add to the toxic pollutants in our air, especially as compared to fewer connect/disconnect procedures for marine and pipeline supplies of crude oil?

I know there are a few intrepid citizens out there who want to know more in technical detail, and who will devote themselves to the sorts of tech analysis of protocols that inevitably point to issues of both worker and public safety / public health.  Please take a look at the attached document from the DOT / Bureau of Explosives: Pamphlet 34 – Recommended Methods for the Safe Loading and Unloading of Non-Pressure (General Service) and Pressure Tank Cars(Pay close attention to the highlighted material on pages 11-13.)

[NOTE: original source of this pamphlet and other informative documents is]
Roger Straw
Editor, The Benicia Independent