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Valero – no tar sands in the UK!

UK Tar Sands Network, Corporate Watch and Pembrokeshire Friends of the Earth have just released a new report outlining Valero’s plans to bring tar sands to the UK. This page gives a summary of the report.

US-based Valero Energy is the world’s largest independent petroleum refiner (a company which refines crude oil, but doesn’t drill for it).

Valero has an appalling environmental record, having repeatedly violated air and water pollution legislation, funded climate change deniers, and fiercely opposed carbon reduction legislation.

Valero is heavily involved in tar sands.

Valero has committed to taking on at least 100,000 barrels a day (20% of initial capacity) from the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline until 2030. The company has also recently upgraded its Port Arthur refinery in Texas, increasing its ability to process heavy sour crude (such as tar sands oil) to 80% of its 310,000 barrels per day capacity. Port Arthur is located where the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is planned to finish, on the Texas Gulf Coast, perfectly positioned for export to Europe and Latin America.

Valero has recently expanded into the UK.

In August 2011, Valero purchased the Pembroke refinery in Wales, marking its first foray beyond the Americas. The £450 million deal also included ownership interests in four major pipelines and 11 fuel terminals, a 14,000 barrel per day aviation fuels business, and more than 1,000 Texaco-branded service stations in the UK and Ireland.

Valero wants to bring tar sands to the UK.

In an investor presentation in 2011 Valero used this map to demonstrate its plans to export diesel from its Gulf Coast facilities to Europe:

By 2012, Valero’s investor presentation was showing this map. Worried yet?

It is difficult to ascertain the exact details of Valero’s plans. Pembroke refinery is not itself configured to process heavy oil straight from the tar sands. Oil coming to Pembroke or elsewhere in the UK would come from refineries in the Gulf Coast and would include a blend of oil from different origins, making the supply chain difficult to trace. But as more tar sands oil finds its way to the Gulf Coast, more and more of this is likely to originate from the tar sands.

But wasn’t the Keystone XL pipeline stopped?

The Keystone XL pipeline has faced severe opposition from environmentalists, farmers, landowners, First Nations and the general public, and is currently locked in legislative battle in Congress. However, the southern section of the route, from Oklahoma to Texas, was given support by the Obama Administration and construction has already started. In the meantime a series of alternative pipelines routes out of Alberta are being explored.

And wasn’t the FQD meant to prevent tar sands coming here?

The EU Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) would discourage the use of high-emission crude oil, like tar sands, in the EU transport sector. Despite strong support for the legislation from the EU Parliament, EU Commission and many member states, the FQD has been subject to aggressive lobbying from the Canadian government and oil companies like Shell and BP, causing severe delays. Assuming it is eventually successful, the FQD will still not actually ‘ban’ fuel derived from tar sands, but act as an economic disincentive. It will also not prevent tar sands-derived products that are used in sectors other than transport, such as ‘petcoke’,  a high­carbon solid fuel used in steel refining, power stations and cement production.

Is there already tar sands oil coming to Europe?

There is a tiny trickle of oil derived from tar sands coming into several locations, such as the Netherlands, Spain and France – but it is almost impossible to accurately trace. And guess who is behind most of this oil – Valero. Greenpeace and Platform’s report, Tar Sands in Your Tank, provides more information.

The tar sands industry needs to be shut down, not expanded. What can we do?

  • Challenge Valero to share information. We need to force Valero to fully disclose the origin of the oil it imports to Pembroke and other locations in the UK, as well as its long­ and medium­ term plans for how this might change based on pipeline expansion in the US.
  • Find out what regulatory oversight there is over Valero’s Pembroke refinery, and who is responsible for it. What permissions would Valero need to dramatically increase tar sands imports? Could the Welsh Government take a stand against the import of oil originating from the tar sands, to fit with its goal of ‘Sustainable Development’? Would local politicians be willing to speak out against tar sands? If you live near Pembroke, you might want to contact Pembrokeshire Friends of the Earth, who are working on this issue.
  • Put Valero in the spotlight. Unlike BP, Shell, and most oil giants, Valero has the luxury of not being a household name. We need to highlight Valero’s plans and dodgy history, and let the company know that it is starting to be on the public’s radar. One public face of Valero is its 1000+ Texaco petrol stations.
  • Work in solidarity. Protesters fighting the Keystone XL pipeline, advocates pushing the EU Fuel Quality Directive, and affected communities on the front line of tar sands extraction, are all part of the same battle. Join the struggle wherever you can.
  • Make a declaration to become ‘Tar­-Free’. Valero is spreading into other parts of the UK too, having purchased terminals in 11 locations including Cardiff, Plymouth, Manchester and Brighton. Is your town on the map above? The UK Tar Sands Network is working with communities around the UK to create a network of ‘Tar­-Free Towns’, that are resisting direct and indirect links to the dirty fuel.

Download the full report.

See Valero’s response to the report.

Read about the launch of the report.