Santa Bargara oil spill: ExxonMobil halts drilling due to crippled pipeline

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ExxonMobil has temporarily ceased oil production on three platforms off the coast of Santa Barbara because an oil spill last month crippled the pipeline it used to transport crude to refineries, a spokesman for the oil company said.

The spokesman, Richard Keil ,said Tuesday that the company was forced to shut down the platforms last week after Santa Barbara County officials rejected the company's emergency application to truck oil to a refinery.

“Due to the county’s refusal to grant our emergency application to truck our product by crude from a storage facility in Las Flores Canyon to a refinery in Santa Maria, and other locations, we have temporarily ceased production at our three offshore platforms off the coast of Santa Barbara,” Keil told KPCC.

A county official said the company's problem delivering the oil was not an emergency.

ExxonMobil had significantly cut production from the three rigs after the Plains All American Pipeline spilled up to 101,000 gallons of crude along the coast on May 19.

ExxonMobil was storing oil at a facility onshore, but the facility was reaching capacity when the company requested permission to transport oil by truck.

“We made the determination that, as we were nearing capacity, that was the best and safest time to shut in production, so we took those steps on the platforms out off the coast of Santa Barbara to do just that,” Keil said. “We’re studying a range of options before us right now, with the idea of getting production restarted as soon as possible, but we haven’t made any definitive plans on our next step.”

Before shutting down pumping from the three platforms off El Capitan Stage Beach, Exxon had already cut back its daily production by nearly two-thirds. The company had wanted to transport the oil at a rate of as many as eight trucks an hour, 24 hours a day.

Even with the halt in production, analysts told KPCC they expect little impact on prices going forward.

"It is a drop in the bucket," Tom Kloza, Global Head of Energy Analysis at Oil Price Information Service, said earlier this month. "The U.S. is producing more crude than we have since May of 1972."

KPCC's Environment Reporter Jed Kim and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


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