The site was home to an asphalt refinery until 2012 when Alon shut it down because it struggled to turn a profit. Alon plans to reconfigure and restart the plant, but much of the oil transported there by train will move by pipeline to other companies’ refineries in California.
Plains All American Pipeline PAA -0.75% LP says it plans to open a 70,000-barrel-a-day oil-train terminal in Bakersfield this month.
And in northern California, a judge last month dismissed a lawsuit brought by environmental groups that challenged Kinder Morgan Inc. KMI -1.21% ’s rail permits. The company is now receiving oil trains at a Richmond, Calif., terminal near San Francisco that was built to handle ethanol.
Opposition over safety has drawn out the permitting process in some cases, making some companies rethink their strategies. Valero Energy Corp. VLO +0.92% in March canceled plans to build an oil-train terminal near its Los Angeles refinery.
But Valero still hopes to add a terminal to the company’s Benicia, Calif., plant, 35 miles northeast of San Francisco.
“Every day that goes by that we’re not able to bring in lower cost North American oil, is another day that the Benicia refinery suffers competitively,” says spokesman Bill Day. The state last month asked Benicia for another safety review to better forecast the potential for derailments and other accidents.
Several oil-train explosions in the last 15 months—including last year’s blast in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people—have struck fear in many residents along rail corridors.
“These railcars are not safe at any speed,” says Andrés Soto, a musician from Benicia who has helped organize campaigns against several oil-train projects. “We don’t see that there’s any way that they can actually make these projects fail-safe.” Environmental-impact challenges have been one means that groups have used to delay oil trains.
Pittsburg, Calif., officials say WesPac Midstream LLC’s proposed oil-train terminal is on hold after the state attorney general asked for an expanded environmental review. The company is gathering answers for regulators and hopes to gain approval and start accepting oil trains at the site by late 2016, 40 miles east of San Francisco, a WesPac spokesman says.
Even if oil trains are kept off California tracks, more fracked crude still could flow to California. A 360,000-barrel-a-day oil-train terminal in Vancouver, Wash., aims to transfer North Dakota crude from tanker cars to barges that will sail the Columbia River about 100 miles northwest to the Pacific Ocean. From there, it is a quick trip down the coast to California ports.
That project also has faced stiff headwinds. Refiner Tesoro Corp. TSO +0.03% and transportation provider Savage Cos. Were forced to postpone the start for the Vancouver terminal because of approval delays. While the governor hasn’t approved the project, the companies say they expect to be up and running next year.
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