Offshore barging operations at Ellwood Beach could cease, following a proposal Venoco Inc. made earlier this week for a new 8.5-mile subterranean oil transport pipeline.

Submitted to Santa Barbara County and Goleta officials May 13, the tube would allow Ellwood Pipeline Inc.-a subsidiary of Venoco Inc.-to cease its offshore barging operation and onshore marine terminal at Ellwood by 2010. The underground pipeline would connect to the existing Plains All-American Pipeline near Las Flores Canyon and would be equipped with advanced control valves and a leak detection system.

Venoco’s current Ellwood oil facility consists of an ocean platform, Platform Holly, which sends gas and oil in a pipeline to the Ellwood Onshore Facility (EOF) between the Sandpiper Golf Course and Bacara Resort & Spa. After processing, the oil then travels via another pipeline along Hollister Avenue to Pacific Oaks Road en route to the Ellwood Marine Terminal, where two storage tanks are fixed on the UCSB mesa.

Platform Holly
Paul Wellman (file)

In the newly proposed route, the processed oil would travel under Highway 101 and then west along the north side of the freeway to Las Flores Canyon. If constructed, it would end the biweekly transport of oil by the single-hulled barge Jovalon, which in a single trip loads some 65,000 barrels of oil at the Ellwood Marine Terminal and hauls them off to either Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Goleta City Councilmember Margaret Connell said the plan, though attractive because it proposes removing all coastal oil operations from Goleta, has its flaws. “The good thing about it is that it means the Ellwood Marine Terminal on the [UCSB] mesa would go away sooner and the barging of oil would soon cease,” Connell said. “That would be excellent. : [But] on the downside, this could very likely mean the Ellwood Onshore Facility could be there for a long, long time.”

“Transporting oil by pipeline is consistent with the city and county policies. UCSB will enjoy the new open space and visitors to the Ellwood Mesa won’t see the barge visiting every 11 days.”

In service since the late 1920s, the Ellwood Marine Terminal first transported oil from the Ellwood field to a number of piers along the coastline. Steve Greig, Venoco’s government relations manager, said the new system would end more than 80 years of operations adjacent to Devereux Slough, Coal Oil Point Reserve, and Ellwood Mesa City Park. “We know the community is as anxious as we are to see this pipeline in place,” Greig said in a prepared statement. “Transporting oil by pipeline is consistent with the city and county policies. UCSB will enjoy the new open space and visitors to the Ellwood Mesa won’t see the barge visiting every 11 days.”

From Goleta’s standpoint, Connell said that if Venoco is permitted to build its own pipeline, the company could potentially build its own oil processing outfit beyond the Las Flores Canyon facilities. “Our goal as a city is to remove all industrial oil operations from our coastal areas,” Connell said. “There are a lot of issues about this extended field drilling. There is an environmental impact report on the slant drilling, which we don’t have. The environmentally preferred alternative is to have a pipeline go offshore and have the oil go there.”

Despite the grievances, the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) supports the creation of the new pipeline because it would minimize offshore barging throughout the state. Linda Krop, EDC chief counsel, said the center has advocated against offshore barging since 1990, when ARCO Gasoline managed the facility. “When Veneco took over [the drilling operations] in 1997, everyone was asking them to build a pipeline : and they hadn’t been willing to do that,” Krop said. “This is only about how they transport their oil. : This pipeline project needs to be kept [separate] from everything else. We’re imploring people not to make the connection [between the onshore facility and the pipeline].” The proposal is slated for discussion at the June 1 meeting of the California State Lands Commission.


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