Valero admits plan for tar sands and Bakken crude

Repost from Digital Journal

Valero admits plans for East Bay refinery to burn tar sands oil

By Nathan Salant, March 27, 2014

VrefBenicia –  Valero Energy Corp. could use a new rail terminal it plans to build at its San Francisco Bay Area refinery to process highly flammable Bakken crude from Montana.

Valero Energy Corp. could use a new rail terminal it plans to build at its San Francisco Bay Area refinery to process highly flammable Bakken crude from Montana.

Valero conceded that possibility for the first time Monday at a community meeting called by the city-sponsored Valero Community Advisory Panel, according to San Francisco television station KPIX.

“If Bakken crude is one of the crudes that’s available by rail, it’s possible that it could make its way to our plant,” Valero spokesman Chris Howe told KPIX reporter Christin Ayers at Monday’s meeting.

Valero had previous said only that it wanted to begin bringing in crude oil by train to add to the resources available to its refinery in Benicia, Calif., on the shore of Suisun Bay.

Valero’s Don Couffle also told KPIX that the refinery also could choose to bring in oil derived from Canadian tar sands, similar to the fuel that leveled a major part of a Canadian coastal town last year, killing 47 people.

“Crude oil that’s derived from tar sands may be a candidate if it fits our profile,” Couffle said.

The refinery already brings in more than 100,000 barrels of crude daily by ship and pipeline.

Valero proposed the rail facility last year but the city, which must decide whether to allow it, required the company to prepare an extensive environmental impact report before it could be approved.

In theory, the project still could be derailed it the report uncovers unanticipated negative environmental consequences.

But Valero’s proposal has stirred up considerable outrage in the small, historic community, where project opponents have organized meetings of their own and threatened protests.

Nearly 200 residents jammed Monday night’s meeting at a union hall less than a half-mile from the refinery.

Several attendees spoke in favor of the rail project, which has been projected to add 20 permanent jobs to the refinery’s workforce and as many as 100 temporary jobs while the facilities are constructed.

Company officials presented the project to the audience and then answered questions from attendees.

Valero said shipments of up to 100 tanks cars filled with crude oil every day would not affect air quality, and that all safety standards would be met.

The additional oil by rail would not increase refinery production, the company said, because it would merely replace crude currently brought by ship.

“It would not increase crude delivery, just make it more flexible,” said John Hill, the refinery’s vice president and general manager.

But many local residents and newly formed community groups complain that the rail shipments added an extra layer of danger to the community.

Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community said Canadian tar sands oil was more polluting than other crudes.

“They’re just pushing through the project,” said the group’s Jan Cox-Golovich, a community activist and former city councilwoman.

“Have some respect for the community,” she said.

The draft environmental impact report is expected to be released next month, after which Valero plans to host another public meeting, KPIX said.

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