MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) --An East Bay refinery wants to modernize its facility and cut greenhouse gases dramatically in the process -- but is the project all it claims to be?
Shell wants to get out ahead of any potential controversy. They've already sent letters out to residents in the area explaining the project. The environmental review process has yet to being but so far, it appears the "reviews" are mostly positive.
Shell hopes to phase out the 30-year-old Flexicoker unit at its Martinez refinery by 2020. "There's everything to like about this project. We're going to come into compliance with California's greenhouse gas standards, which are the toughest in the nation, and we're also going to lessen our dependence on heavy crude, which is better for our business," explained Shell refinery spokesman Steve Lesher.
Shell claims the modernization would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 700,000 metric tons per year, the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road.
"It works on a lot of levels," said Martinez City Councilman Mark Ross. He sits on the board of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. "If they really wanted to double down, if they have any pollution reduction credits under AB32, they could retire them and not sell them, and that would be even doubly beneficial for the Bay Area," he said.
But some critics have an innate distrust of any plan put forward by a big oil company. In Martinez, the Shell project would not increase the amount of oil processed and allow refining of lighter crude oil. "There's no change in the amount that they're processing. The type of crude that they're going to be bringing in, I believe, is much better crude than they had," said Ralph Sattler, Shell community advisory panel member.
Shell will present its project next week to the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, a first step in launching the environmental review process.