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More ethanol-to-crude rail facility conversions unlikely in California: analyst

Orlando, Florida (Platts)--24 Mar 2014 437 pm EDT/2037 GMT


More conversions of California ethanol rail unloading terminals to crude service are unlikely, following Kinder Morgan's switch of its Richmond, California, unloading facility, an analyst said Monday.

"The other big [ethanol] terminals aren't as close to refiners, and there is a limited amount of ethanol capacity," Stillwater Associates President David Hackett said on the sidelines of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Kinder Morgan late last year converted the terminal to crude service from ethanol service "after changes in the ethanol market made it attractive for us to look to other commodities," spokeswoman Melissa Ruiz said Monday in an email.

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The Richmond terminal is the only 100-car unit train crude-by-rail facility in California, she said.

"In order to handle crude oil, we had to file a new application with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMA) for permits, which we received last summer," she said. "We began handling crude this past September, and the facility will serve Bay Area refiners."

The terminal is located on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail yard in Richmond. The railed crude is trucked from the terminal, she said, noting that there are no pipelines or tank connections involved.

Ruiz declined to comment on the terminal's current throughput or on which types of crude are received by the facility.

The rail terminal conversion comes after the leading US midstream company early last year scrapped its high-profile proposed Texas-to-California Freedom Pipeline on a lack of customer interest. The pipeline would have delivered 277,000 b/d of crude from the Permian Basin in West Texas to northern and southern California refining complexes.

Kinder Morgan said at the time that it would focus on providing crude-by-rail options for West Coast and Texas shippers.

Along the West Coast, refiners and midstream companies are planning to construct crude-by-rail unloading terminals, but are facing permitting delays opposition.

If California "doesn't get crude by rail, their competitiveness will erode," Hackett said during the Platts Barrel Talk panel discussion at the conference. "We do see some uptick in rail deliveries, but there is a lot of opposition to crude by rail in California with the environmental community."

--Bridget Hunsucker, bridget.hunsucker@platts.com
--Edited by Katharine Fraser, katharine.fraser@platts.com

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