Exxon seeks oil truck fleet With pipe­line closed, firm wants to ship crude by road, 24-7

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Javier Pan­zar

How do you move thou­sands of gal­lons of crude a day with a key oil pipe­line out of com­mis­sion in­def­i­nitely?

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 5,000gal­lon 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.

“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.

Exxon spokesman Richard Keil said the com­pany wants to use trucks to move oil un­til the pipe­line is op­er­a­tional again, which could be months.

“We need to move our prod­uct by truck to serve the en­ergy needs of Cal­i­for­ni­ans and the de­mands of the re­finer­ies we sup­ply,” he said.

Line 901, the rup­tured sec­tion of pipe, trans­ports oil from Las Flores to a pump sta­tion in Gaviota, where it meets Line 903. From there, the crude oil trav­els 128 miles to Kern County. Plains All Amer­i­can Pipe­line shut down both pipe­lines af­ter the spill.

Fed­eral reg­u­la­tors said Wed­nes­day that Line 901 was ex­ten­sively cor­roded. Be­tween 45% and 74% of the pipe wall’s orig­i­nal thick­ness had been stripped away, they said.

The sec­tion of pipe that broke had worn down to 1⁄16 of an inch, and in­ves­ti­ga­tors found a 6-inch crack along the bot­tom of the pipe, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary find­ings from the fed­eral Pipe­line and Haz­ardous Ma­te­ri­als Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

When the pipe­line broke, about 21,000 gal­lons of Exxon’s crude oil spilled down a culvert and into the Pa­cific Ocean near Refu­gio State Beach.

En­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists op­pose the pro­posal to truck crude oil across the county. They said putting large tankers full of crude on lo­cal roads is an un­nec­es­sary risk.

“We are deal­ing with enough right now. We don’t want an­other dis­as­ter,” said Linda Krop, chief coun­sel for the Santa Bar­bara-based En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Cen­ter.

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

OIL-STAINED land marks where the rup­ture oc­curred in May along the pipe­line in Santa Bar­bara County. More than 100,000 gal­lons of oil was spilled, with about 20,000 gal­lons en­ter­ing the ocean.

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