Image courtesy of ExxonMobil.

ExxonMobil is requesting an emergency permit to temporarily transport crude on Highway 101 in California after a spill near Santa Barbara last month shut down a major crude pipeline.

Santa Barbara energy officials told the LA Times that ExxonMobil wants to mobilize a fleet of 5,000 gallon tanker trucks to move crude produced at three offshore platforms.

The company would be deploying one truck every eight hours, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The crude usually travels through Line 901, a 10.6 mile long pipeline operated by Plains All American Pipeline that was shutdown on May 19 after spilling about 101,000 gallons of crude around Refugio State Beach.

“They are totally pinched off right now. The only way out of the county is through that pipeline network,” head of Santa Barbara county’s energy division Kevin Drude told the LA Times.

The pipeline, known as Line 901, moves crude from Las Flores to Gaviota, where it joins Line 903.

Plains All American voluntarily shutdown Line 903 after the spill.

The shutdown has forced ExxonMobil to cut production slated for transport through Line 901  to 8,000 barrels per day from its normal level of 30,000 bpd, the LA Times said.

Santa Barbara County is taking public comment on the request and expects to make a decision next week, KSBY-6 said.

Last week, the Department of Transportation said a preliminary investigation of Line 901 by third-party metallurgists “revealed metal loss of approximately 45% of the original wall thickness in the area of the pipe that failed on May 19.”

Houston-based Plains All American was able to shut down the pipeline about 30 minutes after detecting pressure irregularities and also blocked a nearby culvert to stop crude from escaping into the ocean.

Despite the rapid response, the spill polluted a four mile stretch of beach and created oil slicks that extend about nine miles along the coastline.

The cause of the spill is still being investigated.


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