Members of the Summit County Council on Wednesday took time to quiz Tesoro representatives on the environmental impacts and specifics of the proposed Uinta Express Pipeline, which could travel through 36 miles of the county. Though many questions were answered, a good number went unanswered.
Michael Gebhardt, Tesoro's vice president of business development, said that, though the pipeline will be a common carrier pipeline meaning any company can ship on it it would be used only for shipping black or yellow waxy crude oil.
Black waxy crude solidifies at 95 degrees Fahrenheit, while yellow waxy crude solidifies at 115 F. Thus, the waxy crude must be heated at its origin and for the entirety of its 135-mile, 40-hour journey from Duchesne to Salt Lake County. Waxy crude, however, is lower in metals and gives off lower emissions of sulfur dioxide than tar sands oil, Gebhardt said.
Summit County Councilman Roger Armstrong asked Gebhardt if this pipeline would be the only one of Tesoro's pipelines to run through a high-mountain low-temperature environment. Gebhardt confirmed that and added that the waxy crude from the Uinta Basin is also unique to the area in that it must remain heated in transport.
"We would have a fairly constant temperature in the pipeline plus insulation, and there would be monitoring and metering [along the route]," Gebhardt said.
Armstrong continued with more environmental questions, such as how large of a spill would occur before the waxy crude solidified in the event of a pipe rupture.
In the event of a spill, Gebhardt said a Tesoro crew would respond "immediately." All valves, pumps and motors on the pipeline would be remotely controlled as well, and the flow of waxy crude could be halted within a minute.
County Engineer Leslie Crawford inquired about whether the pipeline would have secondary containment along the route.
"Before you recognize a leak, there's a chance a lot of crude will leak into the water and contaminate the water supply. Is the pipe secondary-contained all the way?" Crawford asked.
Gebhardt said there would be four containment areas along the pipeline that would feature 20,000-gallon above-ground tanks that would store spilled crude. Secondary containment would not be featured along the entire length of the pipeline, however, and he said that is an industry standard.
Councilman Dave Ure posed a concern about pounds per square inch (psi) of the pipeline, based on the 2010 Chevron pipeline spill near Red Butte Creek. When that spill occurred, Ure said, the pressure of the pipeline was increased from 1,000 psi to 1,800 psi. Gebhardt was not certain, but said the Uinta Express Pipeline would be close to 1,000 psi.
If the flow of waxy crude should stop, the exterior of the pipeline would have electrical strips which would keep the crude at a suitably high temperature until flow could be resumed. Ure again expressed concern based on a past incident with the Chevron pipeline near Kamas.
"[During that incident], we had two to three feet of snow in about mid-February and we had one, one-and-a-half straight days of rain. With all the snow and rain running into the ground, it dropped the temperature of the oil 30 to 40 degrees in 12 hours and produced two plugs," Ure said.
Gebhardt responded by stating Tesoro would design the pipeline route with terrain considerations in mind.
The Uinta Express Pipeline will parallel an existing Chevron pipeline for a considerable distance. The Chevron pipeline has a 20-foot right-of-way on either side, and Armstrong asked whether this pipeline would have a 100-foot right-of-way, as has been discussed.
"Conceptually, 100 feet is what you look at, but the terrain will constrain [that distance]," Gebhardt said.
Property owners who already have the Chevron pipeline running through their property would see a "substantial burden" put on them if that 100-foot right-of-way is added to that, Armstrong said.
Although Tesoro will work with landowners in creating the pipeline route throughout the process of formulating the environmental impact statement (EIS), Gebhardt said Utah Code would allow eminent domain to be exercised. But, he added, "We really hope that doesn't happen."
Utah Code 78B-6-501(6)(d) allows gas, oil or coal pipelines as uses for which eminent domain may be exercised.
Written comments about the Uinta Express Pipeline are due March 17 and can be submitted via e-mail to email@example.com , by fax to 801-253-8118 or by hand or mail to:
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Supervisor's Office
857 West South Jordan Parkway
South Jordan, UT 84095-8594