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Offshore oil and red herrings

Before getting uptight about building onshore oil facilities, figure out if it's even possible



I was recently quoted in New Times ("Risky business," March 8) saying that offshore oil development on our section of the California coast is a red herring, and Measure A of 1986 was unnecessary. So, how did I come to this conclusion?

Let's consider for a moment that during the same period that Measure A was passed by the voters, the San Miguel Project and Platform Julius were actually proposed by Occidental Petroleum. Platform Julius had been built in Singapore and was waiting installment off our coast.

In order for Julius to be finished, a very large site would be required on land to stage the project. This meant a place where men and material would be stored and prepared for installation on the rig. Things like housing facilities, operational modules, mechanical builds, welding and diving areas, pipe, etc. Next, docks and areas for barges, tugs, and ships to be loaded. All of this equipment would have to be loaded on ships and run out to the rig.

In San Luis Obispo County, no such sites existed nor do they exist today. Morro Bay and Port San Luis have no possible areas to accommodate such massive undertakings. In fact, during the mid-1980s, it was proposed to build a port large enough for this effort at the mouth of the Santa Maria River. Can anybody say with a straight face that this could ever happen? California Coastal Commission approval? Don't think so.

The existing option at the time was to stage out of Oxnard/Channel Islands Harbor, a 100-mile run each way. This was not and is not feasible.

Once Julius was ready to produce oil, it would have needed a way to get the oil onshore. Prior to Julius, Platform Hondo near Gaviota used an Oil Storage & Treatment (OS&T) vessel, which is a converted tanker used to remove water and debris from oil. Next, the oil was transferred to a tanker and taken to a refinery. Later, "subsea completions," a series of underwater pipelines and pumping stations were constructed, and the OS&T was replaced by an onshore processing facility. Now, this is the point where Measure A might have kicked in for Julius. Or, miles of pipelines could have been built to deliver oil to a processing facility and/or refinery.

Quite a lot has been made over the 100,000 gallons of oil spilled along Highway 101 at Gaviota in 2015, some of which entered the ocean. This amount of oil is equal to 2.5 tanker trucks, which travel up and down our highways every day. By comparison, about 240 barrels of oil leak into the Santa Barbara Channel every day from natural seeps. Since the 1969 oil spill, more oil has leaked from natural seeps than what's been spilled from offshore oil rigs.

Lastly, it seems incredibly selfish for my generation to try and prohibit any development of these energy resources. Technology is improving all the time. Why should access to these resources be prohibited from use by future generations? There are an estimated 4 billion to 6 billion barrels of oil and 5 trillion to 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off our coast. Δ

Steven Rebuck fought against Measure A and on behalf of fisherman. Send comments through the editor at [email protected].

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