June 12, 2023[Noozhawk]- Ten months after ExxonMobil bought the Gaviota coast crude oil pipelines from Plains All-American, the company is asking Santa Barbara County to approve an ownership and operatorship transfer on the permits.
Pacific Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, purchased Lines 901 and 903 from Plains last October. It hopes to restart production on its Santa Ynez Unit offshore platforms, which has been stopped since the 2015 Refugio oil pipeline leak.
The company registered the 122 miles of pipeline as the Las Flores Pipeline System and changed their names to CA-324, CA-325 and CA-325B. The lines run from Las Flores Canyon on the Gaviota coast to Pentland in Kern County.
PPC applied for an ownership change and temporary operatorship in November, which was approved by Planning & Development Department staff and immediately appealed by three different organizations.
These applications, filed in April and May, are for change of owner and guarantor, and permanent change of operator. That requires Planning Commission approval.
So, instead of an appeal hearing on June 14, the commissioners will decide whether to approve the new permit transfer applications, according to planning department staff.
The meeting starts at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Planning Commission Hearing Room in the County Administration Building, at 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.
The meeting will also be televised live on Channel 20 and the county YouTube page.
The transfer request hearing is estimated to take four hours, according to the agenda.
Staff from the county’s Energy, Minerals & Compliance Division are recommending that the Planning Commission approve the change of ownership, change of guarantor and change of operator for the pipelines.
Plains, the previous pipeline owner, applied to install safety valves in the pipeline and to build a replacement pipeline along a similar route.
The Planning Commission denied the valve installation project in April after hearing from ExxonMobil-affiliated PPC representatives on the applicant side and local environmental organizations opposed to the project. The replacement pipeline is under environmental review.
Further complicating things, ExxonMobil plans to sell the pipeline and other Santa Ynez Unit oil infrastructure to Sable, including three offshore platforms and the Las Flores Canyon onshore processing facility.
That sale was expected to go through in the first quarter of 2023, “but the sale is not yet final,” ExxonMobil spokesman Todd Spitler said.
“We will continue to maintain our onshore and offshore facilities in a safe state during the transition period,” he told Noozhawk.
Sable and Flame Acquisition Corp., a Houston-based special purpose acquisition corporation, will merge in a $883 million deal to create Sable Offshore Corp., Noozhawk previously reported.
Most of the $643 million purchase price is being financed by a $623 million loan from ExxonMobil, according to an investor presentation filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission.
More than 123,000 gallons of oil leaked onto the shoreline and ocean near Refugio State Beach in the May 19, 2015.
Plains All-American Pipeline was found to be criminally and civilly liable in the case, and federal investigators determined that the company failed to detect the leak and external corrosion.
The oil transportation pipelines have been shut down since the 2015 spill, and so have offshore oil production platforms that rely on the pipeline.
Santa Barbara County rejected ExxonMobil’s request to restart offshore oil platform production and temporarily truck the oil to refineries until a pipeline becomes available. The company sued the county in federal court last year over the decision.
The other oil and gas platforms that relied on the ruptured pipeline are being decommissioned.
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