SPECIAL REPORT: California facing possible fuel crisis after pipeline rupture

| 5/4/2004

California regulators may declare the first fuel emergency in 15 years because of the rupture of a Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP pipeline that may cause shortages of gasoline and diesel, and further price increases,Bloomberg reported.

A pipeline operated by the same company split open in the Phoenix area in August.

A 14-inch pipeline that carries fuel from Concord, CA, to Reno, NV, was shut for six days after spilling as many as 1,000 barrels of diesel into a marsh April 27.

The rupture caused TravelCenters of America in three Nevada locations and one California location – in Chico – to ration diesel fuel to 50 gallons per customer.

"We expect to end this tomorrow (May 5)," Keith Odell, general manager of TravelCenters of America in Sparks, NV, told Land Line.

The spill may have forced refiners to tap fuel reserves to supply filling stations, reducing supplies available for summer, when demand peaks, California Energy Commission spokeswoman Claudia Chandler told Bloomberg.

The commission entered the “verification phase” April 30, which involves contacting all oil refiners, fuel wholesalers, retailers, pipeline operators and military bases in the state to determine whether they have enough gasoline, diesel and jet fuel in storage to avert shortages, Chandler said.

"We're still looking at what the draw was" on stored fuel supplies after the pipeline spill, Chandler said in an interview. "We're contacting all the terminals around northern California to see what volume of product they have on hand. It's the first step in the chain" to declaring an emergency.

Should the agency finds supplies or delivery systems are too constrained to forestall shortages, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could declare a pre-emergency, which involves urging consumers and businesses to voluntarily conserve fuel.