Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Crews respond to Greka leak


Santa Barbara County Fire crews responded yesterday morning to an oil and gas leak at a North County Greka Energy facility on Dominion Road, and as of 7 p.m. last night, flammable gas was still leaking at the site.
“At this time Greka has not been able to shut down gas pressure, but the oil accumulation on the surface of the ground has slowed,” said County Fire Capt. Eli Iskow.

Iskow said one to two barrels of crude oil was spilled, which is anywhere from 42 to 84 gallons. The oil was contained with a dirt berm, he said.
When a County Hazardous Materials Unit responded to the leak at 11 a.m., Greka employees said the oil was leaking from an underground one-inch pressurized gas line.
But it didn’t take long before first responders realized the leak was more than oil.
“When the Hazardous Materials Unit specialist took air samples they found explosive levels of methane gas near the source of the leak,” Iskow said.
As a result of the leaking gas, Iskow said all Greka employees were evacuated from the hazardous area.
According to Iskow, the leak has been difficult to isolate because workers cannot dig near the leak due to the flammable nature of the gas.
But he said Greka employees should have had some idea about how to depressurize the pipe from above ground.
“They can’t find the right valve to turn it off,” he said. “There’s so much infrastructure there that’s old, some of it’s hidden, but no one knows how to operate all of it.”
The incident is the latest in a string of spills to hit the company in recent months.
While Greka officials have vowed to clean up their operations, which have accounted for roughly 80 percent of the total spills and violations for the entire local oil and gas industry since 2003, county and state officials have pledged to increase its fines and tighten its inspection processes against Greka and any other company that regularly spills.
Since last November, Greka has spilled 4,800 barrels, or 200,000 gallons of crude oil onto local soil.
Robert Emmers, a Los Angeles based spokesman for Greka, said he had not yet discussed the leak with Greka officials and could not comment.

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