California's Crude by Rail Preparations Trigger Demonstrations

The Bay Area port city of Pittsburg is considering an application to rebuild and upgrade an existing oil terminal that would receive the explosive crude-by-rail from North Dakota, and residents are making their opposition heard.

2 minute read

February 20, 2014, 10:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

The radio report by KQED's Molly Samuel begins with a demonstration against the oil terminal proposal located in an industrial area that includes a power plant in this port city on the Sacramento River Delta about 20 miles east of Oakland.

"WesPac Energy–Pittsburg LLC (WesPac) proposes to modernize and reactivate the existing marine terminal, oil storage and transfer facilities..." according to the project description. Opponents charge that it is "near the heart of downtown Pittsburg (and) would be right next to homes, parks, churches, and school". A 2012 Contra Costa Times article states, "According to the draft environmental report..., the proposed facility would be located on 125 acres of land within the GenOn power plant property, close to homes."

The facility is ideally located to serve nearby refineries. While the terminal would receive the crude by rail as well as ship and pipeline, it would then "be shipped by pipelines to serve the Shell and Tesoro Golden Eagle refineries in Martinez, the Conoco Phillips refinery in Rodeo and the Valero refinery in Benicia," writes Eve Mitchell of the Contra Costa Times.

Samuel writes that crude-by-rail (CBR) shipments to California are on the rise. While CBR "accounts for a little less than two percent of all the oil California uses now, that may be changing. WesPac is one of six crude-by-rail projects being considered in the state. If they all get approved, rail could provide a quarter or more of California’s oil, according to the California Energy Commission."

According to the Calif. Energy Commission Energy Almanac, 62% of the state's oil was imported from abroad and Alaska in 2011. Switching to Bakken crude would reduce costs as it is traded on the West Texas Intermediate benchmark.

Monday, February 17, 2014 in KQED Science

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