Thursday, May 19, 2016

DANS SHEETS - 6.28.2015 - What we published on June 28, 2015

Refugio Spill – Day One

Turn back the clock slightly more than one month -

May 19, 2015

There is a break in a pipe belonging to Plains All American Pipeline, headquartered in Houston Texas. Plains owns ten miles of pipeline in the Refugio area, the rest of which is owned by Exxon Mobil.

Plains employees are parked in the Refugio Camp Ground about to begin a drill with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department at 11:42am when a camper calls attention to the terrible smell coming from a broken pipe spewing crude oil into a culvert leading to the beach.

County Fire Fighters proceed to the location, attempting to keep the oil from entering the culvert but most of it, up to 100,000 gallons, escapes into the Pacific across the beach. DC, beginning at 17:56, ending at 18:03 Eastern Standard Time. California this was 2:56 in the afternoon Pacific Standard Time. (See attachment - USCG REFUGIO SPILL INITIAL INCIDENT REPORT, NATIONAL RESPONSE CENTER.)

Below are Models and graphs showing the areas which were hit by the gaseous content from the spill, all of which was emitted within the first hour and before any monitoring took place.

Modeling – Hydrogen Sulfide

Within that hour the crude oil in the pipe is no longer flowing. The gaseous contents, including high concentrations of Benzene, a carcinogen, and Hydrogen Sulfide, a poison, have dispersed over the area below.

 Marplot map of Hydrogen Sulfide from the spill point appears in purple, extending to the Threat Point 2 miles downwind (blue cross) and beyond, as indicated.

Modeling using chemical content, wind velocity and direction, show the concentration of Hydrogen Sulfide was probably above the level where most people could begin to suffer life threatening effects for about 10 minutes more than a mile downwind (northeast).

Graph One – Hydrogen Sulfide

Modeling using chemical content, wind velocity and direction, show the concentration of Hydrogen Sulfide was probably above the level where most people could begin to suffer life threatening effects. This threat lasted for about 10 minutes and extended more than a mile downwind (northeast). If this pipeline had burst nearer to a larger population or if the wind direction had shifted the effects could have been remembered as a disaster which killed hundreds or thousands of people.

The impact on people and animals decreased as the gas grew less concentrated. But, as shown in the graph, was still concentrated enough to be life threatening.

Closer to the spill point the likelihood of death or life-threatening conditions increased during the period immediately after the spill occurred.

Source of Information on Health Impact: Venoco Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

The health impact on life used for reference is from the MSDS prepared by Venoco, one of the three petroleum companies operating in the coastal area near Santa Barbara. Venoco runs fracking operations in the Central Valley, which are selling produced water (water containing toxic materials from the fracking process) to farmers in the Central Valley. Venoco Inc., operating as Venoco Oil, is presently seeking to extend their Monterey Shale operations off the Central Coast.


Graph Two – Hydrogen Sulfide

The concentration of Hydrogen Sulfide was probably above the level where most people could begin to suffer life threatening effects for about 10 minutes more than a mile downwind (northeast). The contents of the crude oil released, though not released by Plains, was available through DANS sources.

The concentration of Hydrogen Sulfide and its dispersal in the gaseous material released provides the locations where people and animals were impacted. This information is essential for treatment and to provide links to the party responsible for creating the conditions which impact the health of individuals. 


The MSDS provided by Venoco includes the potential impact of Hydrogen Sulfide under Other Comments, cited below. Source, Venoco MSDS, Extract - Health

Other Comments: This material may contain or liberate hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas with the smell of rotten eggs. The smell disappears rapidly because of olfactory fatigue so odor may not be a reliable indicator of exposure. Effects of overexposure include irritation of the eyes nose, throat and respiratory tract, blurred vision, photophobia (sensitivity to light) and pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs) . Severe exposures can result in nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, or cramps, headache, disorientation and other signs of nervous system depression, irregular heartbeats convulsions, respiratory failure, and death.


Map Two - Benzene

Creating models for the dispersal of gaseous materials requires the use of software designed for the purpose by the United States government through the Department of Commerce. This is in the public domain and is readily available to oil companies and to the public. The maps and graphs used by DANS were created using the same software which companies such as Plains All American Pipeline or ExxonMobil would use. The specific information on the chemical profile of the crude oil in the line at the time the spill took place was found in Canada.

These models, showing areas threatened by potentially fatal levels of Benzene and Hydrogen Sulfide were not made public by Plains, but they had in their possession the means of doing so. Such information provides to individuals who were in the impacted area a link between any resulting health problems experienced as a result of exposure caused by the spill.

Graph One – Benzene

The relationship between exposure to Benzene and cancer is acknowledged in the MSDS produced by Venoco. The section below is copied from the Venoco MSDS Extract, already cited.

Carcinogenicity: Benzene is an animal carcinogen and is known to produce leukemia in humans Benzene has been identified as a human carcinogen by NTP, IARC, and O.S.H.A.
Target Organs: Prolonged or repeated exposures to benzene vapors has been linked to bone marrow toxicity which can result in blood disorders such as leukopenia, thrombocytopenia and aplastic anemia. All of these diseases can be fatal.
Developmental: Exposure to benzene during pregnancy demonstrated limited evidence of developmental toxicity in laboratory animals. The effects seen include decreased body weight and increase skeletal variations in rodents. Alterations in hematopoiesis is have been observed in the fetuses and offspring of pregnant mice.
Warning: This material contains the following chemicals which are known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm and are subject to the requirements of California Proposition 65 (California Health and Safety Code section 25249.51.


SB air dispersion models

SB oil trajectory simulation model

SB oil composition - Env Canada, MSDS (Plains, Exxon, Venoco)

SB oil degradation and evaporation

Plains Core Oil Spill Response Plan

EXXON Pacific Region Oil Spill Response Plan

Venoco Oil Spill Contingency Plan South Elwood Field

Tides and winds for the week of May 19



Software Suites Used






END DANS SHEETS - 6.28.2015