Category Archives: Valero Benicia Refinery

Benicia escaped the peril of Tar Sands Crude by rail; now it’s on the Carquinez Strait

Valero Benicia Refinery was first in line, buys a shipload of Canadian tar sands crude, receiving it along the Strait

The Benicia Independent, July 2, 2024
Carquinez Strait looking toward Vallejo, photo by Calmuziclover – Flickr, Creative Commons

Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline is in its first month of supplying heavy tar sands crude from Edmonton to Canada’s west coast. According to a July 1 Reuters article (see below), Valero’s Benicia Refinery is among the first to buy and ship this volatile crude oil.

In an earlier June 12 article, Reuters reported that recent concerns have arisen over high sulfur content of this crude, and its high acidity and vapor pressure, “conditions that could damage refining equipment or increase air pollution.” Of course, Valero has joined with Chevron and Canadian oil companies in protesting current limits on vapor pressure.

Reuters reports the departure on July 1 of 20 ships loaded with crude oil, one of which was headed to our quaint village. How long does a ship take to get here? When did – or will – the ship slog along our Carquinez Strait and dock at Valero? Any of you know how to research this? – BenIndy

Trans Mountain oil pipeline just shy of target for first-month loadings

A drone view of three berths able to load vessels with oil is seen after their construction at Westridge Marine Terminal, the terminus of the Canadian government-owned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, April 26, 2024. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

Reuters, by Arathy Somasekhar, July 1, 2024

About 20 ships loaded crude oil on Canada’s West Coast in the first full month of operation on the newly expanded Trans Mountain pipeline, according to vessel-tracking data on Sunday, slightly below the operator’s forecast.

Loadings from the pipeline expansion are closely watched because the Canadian government wants to sell the $24.84 billion (C$34 billion) line. Questions about oil quality, pipeline economics and loading challenges have swirled since its startup, spurring concerns over demand and exports of the crude.

The 20 vessels loaded were less than the 22 ships that Trans Mountain had initially expected to load for the month.

Total crude exports from Vancouver were around 350,000 barrels per day with the last two vessels for June-loading at the Westridge Marine terminal, as of Sunday.

“This first month is just shy of the 350,000-400,000 bpd we expected ahead of the startup. We are still in the discovery phase, with kinks being ironed out … but in the grand scheme of things, this has been a solid start,” said Matt Smith, lead analyst at Kpler.

The vessels, partially loaded Aframaxes able to carry about 550,000 barrels each, mostly sailed to the U.S. West Coast and Asia. Some cargoes were loaded onto larger ships for delivery to India and China, according to data providers LSEG, Kpler and Vortexa.

Reliance Industries bought 2 million barrels of Canadian crude for July delivery, a deal that involved four ship-to-ship transfers to load the oil onto a very large crude carrier offshore California. The oil is destined for Sikka, India, where the company operates the world’s biggest refining complex.

Phillips 66 acquired a cargo for its Ferndale, Washington, refinery, Marathon Petroleum Corp for its Los Angeles refinery,  and Valero Energy Corp for its Benicia, California, refinery .

TMX did not immediately respond ahead of a long weekend in Canada. Phillips 66 and Marathon Petroleum declined to comment, while  Valero  did not reply to a request for comments.

The market was expecting about 17 to 18 loadings, said Rohit Rathod, market analyst at energy researcher Vortexa.

“Chinese demand has been below expectations, and if not for Reliance most of the barrels in June would have remained within the (West Coast) region,” Rathod added.

Trans Mountain this month revised standards for accepting crude oil on its recently expanded system, alleviating worries about the acidity and vapor pressure of the line’s crude oil.

Logistical constraints in a busy, narrow shipping channel after leaving the Westridge dock in Vancouver were also expected to impact loadings. To manage high traffic in the channel, the Port of Vancouver has restrictions on transit times.

The expanded Trans Mountain pipeline is running around 80% full with some spot capacity used. Trans Mountain forecasts 96% utilization from next year. It has capacity to load 34 Aframax ships a month.

(By Arathy Somasekhar in Houston; additional reporting by Nia Williams in British Columbia; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

[FYIMore on Google about the Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMX)]

Major Leadership Shift at Benicia Refinery: Valero VP/GM Josh Tulino Replaced by Returning Industry Heavyweight

[BenIndy: At last, the rumors have been confirmed. We won’t speculate as to what prompted the Valero Benicia Refinery’s exiting GM/VP to retire at 49; we will simply wish him good luck. The incoming GM/VP Lauren Bird, who has more than 37 years experience working in the oil refining industry, served as GM/VP for two other refineries and worked at the Benicia refinery when it was Exxon Benicia. This leadership transition bears careful attention, especially in light of the imminent votes on an Industrial Safety Ordinance for Benicia.]

From the Valero Benicia Refinery Community Update May 31, 2024 Constant Contact Newsletter.

From the Valero Benicia Refinery Community Update newsletter, sent May 31, 2024

Josh Tulino, Vice President (VP) and General Manager (GM) of the Valero Benicia Refinery has elected to retire. Josh began his career with Exxon as a process engineer at Benicia and became a Valero employee when Valero purchased the Benicia Refinery in 2000. Josh held different positions throughout the Valero Energy Corporation circuit and was promoted to VP & GM at our Memphis Refinery in 2017 and then transferred to Benicia as our VP/GM in 2020.

With Josh’s retirement, Lauren Bird will relocate to Benicia as VP/GM effective June 1, 2024. Lauren started his career at Exxon Baytown and later transferred to Exxon Benicia progressing through positions of increasing responsibilities. He joined Valero when Valero purchased the Benicia Refinery and was promoted to Director of Refinery Operations in 2002. Lauren was then promoted to VP and General Manager of Valero’s Meraux Refinery in 2012, he then relocated to Valero’s McKee Refinery as the VP and GM in 2014. We are excited that Lauren will be coming back to Benicia where he raised his family.

There is a group of concerned citizens of Benicia who support the adoption of a Benicia Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance (BISHO). To learn more about the effort and add your support, visit


Read more! As Air Quality is so essential to our health, you might want to check out these resources:

Stephen Golub: Benicia, Don’t Let the Fox Guard the Henhouse

Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land

By Stephen Golub, originally published in the Benicia Herald on May 5, 2024

In recent weeks, I’ve reached out to a number of persons familiar with the Contra Costa County (CCC) and Richmond Industrial Safety Ordinances (ISOs), which seek to bolster those localities’ protection from fires, explosions and toxic emissions at the four refineries in that county.

Since it is situated in Solano County and not Contra Costa, Valero is the only Bay Area refinery not covered by such an ordinance. Benicia is the only refinery town in the area not protected by one. To their great credit, Vice Mayor Scott, Councilwoman Birdseye, Fire Chief Chadwick and other personnel are spearheading the City’s drive, unanimously endorsed by the City Council, to draft an ISO for Benicia. The Benicia Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance citizens’ group, to which I belong, is seeking to make the resulting law as strong as possible.

My look at other Bay Area ISOs is intended to bolster both of those efforts.

For now, I’ll focus on three key overlapping considerations that, in my opinion, have so far emerged from my ISO conversations:

My first point regards the crucial citizen Oversight Committee (or whatever name is eventually used) that, as part of the ISO, will keep its administration and enforcement on track. The Committee should comprise independent operational, scientific, environmental, safety and health experts, as well as representatives from affected communities within Benicia and beyond.

I suggest this approach in contrast with simply involving all potential “stakeholders” with some sort of interest in the ISO, since persons employed by, affiliated with or aligned with Valero are unlikely to back strong oversight. Who sits at the table will determine what gets done.

More specifically, let’s involve people who have expertise regarding Valero and other refineries’ operations but who are not beholden to them, as demonstrated by their professional or community track records.

Let’s certainly engage Benicians who have been affected by the emissions, odors, vapors and even residues from the refinery’s repeated incidents and accidents.

Let’s also include non-Benicians, such as those representing citizen or government groups in CCC, Richmond, Martinez and other neighboring communities, as well as representatives of Bay Area environmental organizations.

This brings me to my second point, implied by the first:

The Oversight Committee should not include Valero. Nor should it involve the affiliated “Community Advisory Panel” (CAP), which very rarely involves the community in its meetings and which largely supports the refinery’s perspective. While individuals affiliated with these two entities may mean well, it is inappropriate for a company to influence the very body that oversees the safety and health aspects of its operations.

Let’s also bear in mind that when we’re talking about Valero decision-making, we’re talking not about our fine neighbors and friends who may be employees, but instead about a huge Texas-based corporation.

There is nothing wrong and much that is right with consultation with Valero and listening to its valid concerns. But there are plenty of opportunities to do so, outside of it having membership in the Oversight Committee.

Or to put the matter more simply: Benicia can’t have the fox guarding the henhouse.

To my simple mind, it’s self-evident that Valero should not oversee itself. After all, you wouldn’t want a neighbor who regularly violates local and national safety/health-oriented regulations controlling efforts to prevent those violations, would you? And that’s even assuming the neighbor is committed to proper community oversight, something that can’t be said of Valero in view of its apparently intense opposition to an ISO.

CAP has also demonstrated keen opposition to the very idea of an ISO, as indicated by its hostile reception when Scott and Birdseye attempted to engage it in a constructive way at one of its meetings. This has large ramifications for the Oversight Committee.

Again, why put the fox in charge of the henhouse?

Against this backdrop, it’s puzzling that the City’s “Engage Benicia” ISO outreach site and the community survey it includes feature CAP in several questions, even in terms of a potential ISO role. Perhaps this is due to the laudable even-handedness with which the City is approaching this effort, despite opposition from Valero and CAP. But in visiting the site ( and participating in its survey,  which I heartily encourage, Benicians should be aware that there’s less to CAP than its title implies.

My third point is that the Oversight Committee has a tremendous potential to connect Benicia with likeminded citizens and governments across the Bay Area regarding health and safety concerns. By virtue not just of its membership but also its outreach, it can share information, advocacy and efforts concerning common problems and solutions experienced by CCC, Richmond, Martinez and other areas. That’s yet another reason for the Committee to comprise independent individuals, rather than Valero or its affiliated parties.

In suggesting these paths, I speak only on my own behalf and not as a member of BISHO. If you’re interested in learning more about Valero’s violations and the many reasons the City and your fellow Benicians are working toward a strong ISO, please check out this site:

Join the BISHO movement

There is a group of concerned citizens of Benicia who also support the adoption of a Benicia Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance (BISHO). To learn more about the effort and add your support, visit

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Refineries, Cancer and Other Health Problems: An ISO Can Help Us Breathe Easier

By Stephen Golub, originally published in the Benicia Herald on April 14, 2024

Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land.

In the weeks and months to come, you may hear and read an increasing amount about Benicia adopting an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) that will help protect us against healthy and safety threats posed by the Valero Refinery, its associated asphalt plant and possibly other large industrial facilities.

There are many reasons for Benicia to have such an ordinance, so that we’re no longer the only Bay Area locale that hosts a refinery but is not protected by an ISO. Today, at the risk of getting a bit wonky, I’ll address one key reason: Living close to refineries can increase our risk of contracting cancer and other experiencing other medical problems; an ISO could help reduce such risks.

The point of this column isn’t to prompt panic, but to instead suggest action that will help safeguard our health. Through the better air monitoring, audits, inspections, reporting and above all preventive measures that the ordinance can bring, the City will be better able to reduce safety and health risks to our kids, seniors, small businesses and all Benicians.

The City Council has already taken the crucial first step in this direction. By a unanimous vote in December, the Council acted on a proposal by Vice Mayor Terry Scott and Councilwoman Kari Birdseye: It established a subcommittee comprising those two, aided by Fire Chief Josh Chadwick, to prepare an ISO.

While the ISO is being drafted, hopefully for adoption this summer, there are at least two things we can do to participate in the process:

First, please consider following and supporting the efforts of the Benicia Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance (BISHO) initiative (of which I’m a member), which can be found  at (“Safety” and not just “health” is included in the name because one priority is to protect Benicians and Refinery workers against fires and explosions, and not just toxic emissions.)

BISHO’s evolving site provides reams of relevant information. It also includes how to join the almost 200 fellow citizens who are supporting an ISO (and who, given that some folks may back a measure even if they don’t sign on to it, may well represent many thousands of Benicians).

Second, check out and post your thoughts at the “Engage Benicia” site the City has established to exchange information and opinions about the planned ISO: It provides “Opportunities for Input,” where you can weigh in on a number of weighty questions regarding our safety, health and an ISO.

Clicking this image will take you to

The site isn’t ideal. (Then again, what is?) For instance, it solicits our thoughts on a current “Community Advisory Panel” (CAP) without noting that to a great extent it is controlled and serves at the discretion of Valero. Still, the site represents a laudable effort to seek community input as Birdseye, Scott, Chadwick and other City personnel work hard to take Benicians’ perspectives into account. It’s well worth visiting, to register reactions and questions.

Now, on to the less pleasant news: A variety of research findings from across the country and the world indicate that cancer rates and other health problems are higher near refineries and related facilities than elsewhere. (There’s also relevant health data from Benicia, but I’ll save that for another day.) Again, my point is that an ISO can reduce our risks, not least by regulating Valero’s operations and reporting in ways that perhaps are not being done adequately elsewhere, such as in oil industry-friendly Texas (where, by the way, Valero is headquartered).

So please take this list as grounds for hope and urgency, not despair, about what Benicia can do. (The place listed is where the refinery is located; the date is when the research was published.)

Cancer rates, Texas, 2020: “[A University of Texas] team studied the Texas Cancer Registry and US Census Data from 2001 – 2014 to compare rates of cancer (bladder, breast, colon, lung, lymphoma, and prostate) of people within 30 miles of active Texas oil refineries. The team observed that proximity to an oil refinery was associated with a significantly increased risk of cancer diagnosis across all cancer types. People living within 10 miles of an active refinery were more likely to have advanced disease or metastatic disease.”

Children’s liver and bone-related disorders, Texas, 2016: “This study examined the health effects of benzene exposure among children from a flaring incident at the British Petroleum (BP) refinery in Texas City, Texas…These findings suggest that children exposed to benzene are at a higher risk of developing both hepatic [liver-related] and bone marrow-related disorders.

Post-incident health problems, Richmond, California, 2019: “After the 2012 incident [release chemicals into the air], two Emergency Departments took the brunt of the surge [of patients]. Censuses [i.e., the number of patients under care] increased from less than 600 a week each to respectively 5719 and 3072 the first week…It took 4 weeks for censuses to return to normal. The most common diagnosis groups that spiked were nervous/sensory, respiratory, circulatory, and injury.”

Leukaemia, various locations, 2020: “The systematic review identified 16 unique studies, which collectively record the incidence of haematological [blood-related] malignancies across 187,585 residents living close to a petrochemical operation. Residents from fenceline communities, less than 5 km from a petrochemical facility (refinery or manufacturer of commercial chemicals), had a 30% higher risk of developing Leukaemia than residents from communities with no petrochemical activity.”

Children’s asthma, South Africa, 2009: “The results support the hypothesis of an increased prevalence of asthma symptoms among children in the area as a result of refinery emissions and provide a substantive basis for community concern.”

Female lung cancer, Taiwan, 2000: “The study results show that mortality from female lung cancer rose gradually about 30 to 37 years after the operation of a petroleum refinery plant began.”

There’s more, but I’ll leave it at that.

An ISO won’t be a cure-all by any means. But it will enable us to build on the work of state and federal agencies that, however well-intentioned, may not prioritize Benicia in view of the many areas they serve. It could well help to diminish our cancer risks and exposure to other health challenges.

And that should make us all breathe easier.