Friday, June 5, 2015

Keep on truckin': Exxon edition

What's an oil company to do when its under-maintained corroded pipeline ruptures and spurts oil into the Pacific? Well, if you are Exxon, you put it on trucks, or so they propose.
Exxon Mobil officials are seeking permission to truck the oil through Santa Barbara County after a ruptured pipeline sent oil spilling into the Pacific Ocean and brought the company's oil transportation operations to a halt.
 The company told Santa Barbara County officials Thursday that it wants to send a fleet of 5,000-gallon tanker trucks along U.S. 101 at a frequency of eight trucks per hour, 24 hours a day, every day, said Kevin Drude, the head of the county's energy division.[my bolding]
"They are totally pinched off right now," Drude said. "The only way out of the county is through that pipeline network."
Crude oil typically moves from Exxon Mobil's three offshore platforms through a 10.6-mile pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline. That pipeline broke May 19 and spilled up to 101,000 gallons of oil along the Gaviota coast.
 Since then, Exxon has reduced its oil production from 30,000 to 8,500 barrels a day and stored its crude in tanks at a facility in Las Flores Canyon near U.S. 101. But the company has not been able to move the oil. Now, it has about two weeks worth of storage space left, said Glenn Russell, Santa Barbara County planning and development director.
Russell said he anticipates a separate request to truck oil from the petroleum company Freeport-McMoRan, which has also been shut in because of the spill.
Since the 1970s, Santa Barbara County has increasingly restricted the transportation of oil by truck and almost exclusively requires pipelines to be used instead. Only a handful of oil companies in the inland northern parts of Santa Barbara County still move oil by truck, Russell said.
"The safest way is through a pipeline," he said. Russell said his staff will review the application and make a decision by Monday.
Exxon has proposed building a truck loading ramp at the company's Las Flores facility to take the oil north on U.S. 101 to other refineries in California, including one in San Luis Obispo, where the crude would be lightly refined, Drude said.
In a rational world, Exxon would stop production unless and until it devised a safe and reliable transport system. Of course this would raise the price of oil, but that raised price would then reflect some of the real costs of oil production, transport and consumption. But we don't live in that world. I am not no longer sure it is even accessible from our own.

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