Kinder Morgan FAQs

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Events following the March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan prompted city officials to ask Kinder Morgan to present an overview of their operations and the safety precautions they have in place at what's commonly known in Brisbane as "the tank farm".  The following list of questions were compiled by staff and Kinder Morgan after hearing the community's concerns at the April 4, 2011 Council meeting where they gave their presentation, as well as those heard in the days that followed.  In addition to responding to the questions, Kinder Morgan provided a list of their regulating agencies, which staff used as a basis for researching and locating more detailed information, seen in the Regulating Agencies section below (i.e. inspector contact information and direct links to Kinder Morgan-specific inspection reports).  It is anticipated that this page will be kept current and updated with new information and reports as they are released.

What is the purpose of the tank farm?
I see something that looks like a fire at the tank farm!  What is it?
What does the vapor burner do?  What kinds of substances are released from the facility?
I've heard that the ground inside the facility is heavily contaminated.  Is that true?
How does Kinder Morgan monitor run-off into the drainage creeks and lagoon?
Where do the trucks that fill up at the terminal deliver?
What are the other facilities in the area that can fill these trucks?
Does all the gas pumped by Kinder Morgan's pipeline go to the airport?
How is the pipeline monitored?
Do any pipelines go under Lagoon Rd. or the Brisbane Lagoon?
What if Brisbane experiences a sizeable earthquake similar to Japan?  Have Kinder Morgan’s tanks been steadily retrofitted over the years in order to withstand a serious earthquake? 
What are Kinder Morgan's emergency response plans?
What is the distinction between the pressurized tanks and the level of pressure running in the lines?
Is the Kinder Morgan terminal really built on bedrock?
Where can I go for more information about Kinder Morgan?
 

Q1: What is the purpose of the tank farm?

A:  Kinder Morgan’s Brisbane Terminal is a vital part of local infrastructure and a key facility within Kinder Morgan’s northern California operations.  There are two pipelines that deliver liquid products to the terminal, moving gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from local petroleum facilities to the storage tanks in Brisbane to be picked up and distributed throughout San Francisco and the peninsula.  To move the product that the Brisbane facility handles without the tanks would mean approximately 400 more tanker trucks on our roads each day!  According to the Department of Transportation, "Pipelines are the safest and most cost-effective means to transport the extraordinary volumes of natural gas and hazardous liquid products that fuel our economy." Brisbane Terminal also is the principal supplier of jet fuel to the San Francisco International Airport through a pipeline that runs from the Terminal to tanks at the airport.

Q2:  I see something that looks like a fire at the tank farm!  What is it?

A:  If it looks like an orange glow near the tall stack at the north end of the facility, it’s the vapor burner stack.  The burner generally goes off every 90 minutes or so, day and night, and will burn for about 10 to 20 minutes.

Q3:  What does the vapor burner do?  What kinds of substances are released from the facility?

A:  Vapors of gasoline, diesel, and other petroleum products generated in tanker trucks are collected by a vapor collection system located on the loading racks at Brisbane Terminal.  These vapors, also referred to as hydrocarbon vapors, are collected and mixed in a vapor tank.  When a predetermined amount of vapors are collected, they are routed to a thermal oxidizer for burning.  The vapors are chemically reduced to H2O (water) and CO2 (carbon dioxide).  While water and carbon dioxide are released as direct products of combustion, nitrogen oxide is released as a byproduct of combustion.  The thermal oxidizer has a destruction efficiency of 99.96%, must be tested annually, and meets the Bay Area Quality Management District’s permit requirements regarding emissions.

Q4:  I’ve heard that the ground inside the terminal is heavily contaminated.  Is that true?

A:  There have been releases of fuel at the facility in the past, but all contamination has been or is being remediated.  The Regional Water Quality Control Board monitors these activities and a Remedial Action Plan is in place.  Any new releases are reported pursuant to regulatory requirements and cleaned up.  Additionally, preventive maintenance and inspections are in place to avoid problems and minimize environmental impact (see section, Regulating Agencies).   Kinder Morgan spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on integrity management programs and maintenance to comply with applicable laws and regulations and operate their assets safely.  Statistics detailing Kinder Morgan’s operational performance are posted on the company’s website, www.kindermorgan.com, located specifically on their Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Performance webpage.  Kinder Morgan continues to outperform the industry averages in virtually all safety and release categories over a 12-month rolling average. 

Q5:  How does Kinder Morgan monitor run-off into the drainage creeks and lagoon?

A:  Storm water that builds up in the facility is monitored and discharged in accordance with the current permit from the Bayshore Sanitary District and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.  Any water that collects in the truck loading area goes into drains that go directly into a facility sump (holding tank), which is then treated to standards required by the permit prior to discharge.

Q6:  Where do the trucks that fill up at the terminal deliver? 

A: The trucks are owned and operated by third parties (not Kinder Morgan) so Kinder Morgan does not monitor or track where the product ends up, but it is likely delivered throughout San Francisco and the peninsula to local gas stations, truck fuel depots, and local airports.

Q7:  What are the other facilities in the area that can fill these trucks? 

A:  Kinder Morgan has a similar terminal in San José that also services tanker trucks in the area, but that facility is served by a separate pipeline that comes from Kinder Morgan’s Concord Station. 

Q8:  Does all the gas pumped by Kinder Morgan’s pipeline go to the airport? 

A:  None of the gasoline that leaves Brisbane Terminal is pumped through the Kinder Morgan pipeline, but the facility does deliver jet fuel to the airport facilities through the line.

Q9: How is the pipeline monitored?

A: Pipeline operating conditions are monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by highly trained operators in control rooms (both at Brisbane Terminal and at the regional headquarters in Orange, California) and by a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) computer system.  The SCADA system gathers data in real time about all current operating conditions: pipeline pressures, volume, flow rates, status of pumping equipment and valves, temperatures, and details about the product itself.  Whenever operating conditions change, an alarm immediately notifies the operator on duty so that he or she can respond to the situation.

Q10:  Do any pipelines go under Lagoon Rd or the Brisbane Lagoon? 

A:  No.  The pipelines go around the lagoon, and the lines that come in to the terminal from under the Bay run alongside Lagoon Road, not beneath it.

Q11:  What if Brisbane experiences a sizeable earthquake similar to Japan?  Have Kinder Morgan’s tanks been steadily retrofitted over the years in order to withstand a serious earthquake? 

A:  During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Kinder Morgan’s terminal sustained no damage.  In a major quake the terminal may sustain some damage, but Kinder Morgan believes any products leaked from the tanks would remain on-site within designed containment areas.  The tanks are on a rigorous inspection schedule, including daily visual inspections, monthly inspections, semi-annual inspections, and major inspections (where the tanks are fully emptied and the interior, floor, walls, and all components are all closely inspected) based on the health of the tank and in accordance with American Petroleum Institute (API) recommendations.  The tanks are upgraded as necessary during these major inspections.

Q12:  What are Kinder Morgan’s emergency response plans?

A:  Kinder Morgan has a very comprehensive Integrated Contingency Plan that meets all regulatory requirements from the agencies that oversee the facility, and it is reviewed by Emergency Response organizations for completeness and relevance.  This plan contains response actions to all types of emergencies.  All emergency response drills undertaken by Kinder Morgan exercise that plan, and all employees are trained on its contents.

The facility also has a facility-specific Security Plan that addresses the responses to be taken in the event of a security threat, from bomb threats to unknown persons photographing the facility to other threats communicated through Kinder Morgan’s Corporate Security division.

There is also a Fire Protection and Prevention plan that is facility-specific and is reviewed by the North County Fire Authority.  In addition, Kinder Morgan staff participates in training with the NCFA on an annual basis.

Q13: What is the distinction between the pressurized tanks and the level of pressure running in the lines?

A: It’s important to realize that the tanks in Brisbane are not pressurized tanks.  They are all operated at atmospheric pressure, which means that if they are damaged in any way, the product inside them would leak out via gravity, not be forced out with pressure.  The pipelines are pressurized, but since the product inside them is a liquid (and not compressible), in the event of a leak, the pressure would relieve immediately after being shut in.  This is different than a pressurized gas line, which, when damaged, would ‘blow down’ for a period of time due to the compressible product expanding to atmospheric pressure.

Q14:  Is the Kinder Morgan terminal really built on bedrock?

A:  Geographical surveys show that the tanks are underlain by bedrock.  The driveways and buildings are underlain by fill and have experienced some subsidence (settling) over the years. 

Q15:  Where can I go for more information about Kinder Morgan?

A:  Please see the Kinder Morgan website, www.kindermorgan.com.  Also, specific Public Awareness information (including information about pipelines in your community) is available at www.kindermorgan.com/public_awareness/.

 

Regulating Agencies

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – the majority of the facility permit requirements stem from EPA regulations.  The EPA ID Number assigned to Kinder Morgan’s hazardous waste activity is CAT080011109.

Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) – permits and inspects the tanks, burner, and any other components that could release hydrocarbon vapors into the atmosphere.  Public records from the BAAQMD can be requested by filling out a Public Records Request Form.  Click here to do so.

Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) – monitors any remediation on site.  The last cleanup order issued to Kinder Morgan was in 2008.  Click here to view that report.  Additional information about the case can be found by clicking here.  For copies of any other  RWQCB inspection reports, please call or e-mail Engineering Geologist Alyx Karpowicz with the SF Bay Water Board at (510) 622-2427 or akarpowicz@waterboards.ca.gov.

Bayshore Sanitary District (BSD) and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) – permits the discharge of any storm water or wastewater from the facility.  Wastewaters from the District’s service area are transported to the City and County of San Francisco for treatment and disposal into San Francisco Bay.  Kinder Morgan’s current BSD/SFPUC industrial discharge permit number is 09-12289. For their last two self-monitoring reports submitted to the Bayshore Sanitary District, please click here.  For the October 2009 inspection report performed by the SFPUC, please click here.  For the SFPUC's June 2011 report, please click here (there is no report from 2010, since the 2009 inspection was done in October).

California State Fire Marshal – regulates and inspects the pipelines and piping and tanks in the facility on behalf of the Department of Transportation (DOT)/Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), as well as the State of California.  Click here to see a listing of all reported significant pipeline system incidents in California over the period 2001 – 2010.  There are no listings for Kinder Morgan’s Brisbane Terminal.  In addition, the U.S. DOT in 2004 began requiring hazardous liquid pipeline operators in to submit performance measure reports covering their pipeline infrastructure and their Integrity Management programs.   Click here to view those reports.  Also, if you would like to submit a records request for those records available for inspection (see Government Code Sections 6254 and 6255), you can do so by contacting Kim Spire, Staff Services Analyst with the CAL FIRE Legal Office, at (916) 653-9656 or e-mailing kspire@fire.ca.gov.  For additional information, you may contact the office of the State Fire Marshal’s Pipeline Safety Division at (916) 445-8477.San Mateo County (Certified Unified Program Agency) Environmental Health – regulates the facility hazardous materials business plan and hazardous waste generation permit (#07-0775).  As part of their annual inspection (last completed on 5/21/2010), a Hazardous Material Specialist inspects five things: Kinder Morgan’s above-ground fuel storage (Hazardous Materials Business Plan Program and their Spill Prevention Counter-Measure Control Program), the treatment of their oily water, disposal of their hazardous waste, and lastly, their stormwater compliance.  For copies of any of these reports, please contact the Environmental Health Services Division at (650) 372-6200 or visit their website, www.smhealth.org/environ

California Department of Fish and Game Oil Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) – requires additional spill planning and response information for pipeline segments that may impact California marine waters and inspects Kinder Morgan emergency response plans accordingly.