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Fight to stop controversial crude oil coming to Wales; CLAIM VALERO 'PLANS TO BRING BITUMEN TO REFINERY'.

Byline: GRAHAM HENRY Senedd Correspondent graham.henry@walesonline.co.uk

OIL from a production process that has provoked a storm of protest in North America could be funnelled through Wales, a report has claimed.

Environmentalists in Pembrokeshire have claimed that US firm Valero, which bought the former Chevron oil refinery in August last year, has plans to bring quantities of hugely controversial crude oil bitumen - known as tar sands oil - to the Pembroke refinery, destined for the rest of the UK and Europe.

The report - produced by Pembrokeshire Friends of the Earth, Corporation Watch and the UK Tar Sands Network - claims that the company is planning on using "increasing quantities" of the oil, and that the purchase of the Pembroke site was a "key stage" in its European export plans.

But a spokeswoman for Valero said that it has not stated it wants to bring increasing quantities of oil, and that it is fully compliant with European and UK regulation. The company also says that it is not involved in the extraction process for the oil, and buys it on the open market.

It follows a public meeting on the issue in Narberth recently, which was addressed by Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans, who called for the company to disclose the origin of its oil products.

It comes as the European Union are considering the Fuel Quality Directive, which would discourage the use of high-emitting crude oil such.

In a speech to the meeting, Ms Evans said: "I share your feelings about the possibility of tar sands oil being imported into Wales via the Pembroke refinery. I do not think that such a damaging fuel should be refined here in Pembrokeshire. The Welsh Government has pledged to make sustainability a key goal of the Assembly.

"I call on them to declare their opposition to tar sands and to take steps to stop the import of this fuel."

The tar sands industry, which is mainly centred around Alberta in Canada, has been criticised for its environmentally unfriendly production process and has provoked thousands to protest in Washington at the White House. It has been accused of causing widespread deforestation, high greenhouse gas levels, large use of water and natural gas, as well as toxic pollution.

Pembrokeshire has already been embroiled in a long-running environmental row over the PS1bn Pembroke Dock Power Station.

The European Commission launched an investigation into the UK government's approval of the gas-fired power station earlier this year.

The latest report's authors claim that Valero bought the former Chevron plant last year in a bid to boost its European diesel export market, and plans to ramp up its use of tar sands oil.

Emily Coats from the UK Tar Sands Network said tar sands extraction was "devastating the environment, destroying indigenous people's lives and livelihoods, and locking us into a future of catastrophic climate change".

She said: "We need to block off new markets for tar sands oil in order to slow the dangerous expansion of this industry and encourage investment in renewable energy. "The EU Fuel Quality Directive is meant to slow the flow of tar sands oil into Europe, so we'd be keen to see how this fits Valero's plans."

Gordon James, from Pembrokeshire Friends of the Earth, said the group was "strongly opposed" to fuel derived from the process and for it to be imported through local ports.

"It would be a travesty for it to enter Britain through Wales when the Welsh Government is aiming to make sustainable development its central organising principle," he said. "In the 1990s we successfully fought a long and hard campaign to prevent 'Orimulsion' fuel, which has similar properties to tar sands oil, being imported and burnt at Pembroke power station.

"Once again, we believe that Pembrokeshire should have nothing to do with such a damaging fuel and we shall campaign vigorously to prevent it happening." A spokeswoman for Valero said that the report contained "several errors and inaccuracies" and said that all crude oil processed in Valero refineries were bought on the open market.

Crude oil bitumen, such as that derived from Canada, could only be processed in a few of the company's US refineries, she said, and that it formed only a "tiny part" of the blended oil the company bought on the market.

"Europe's refineries are configured to produce greater quantities of gasoline than diesel, resulting in a shortage of diesel in the European market," she said.

"As diesel demand increases, it is now essential for the majority of UK and European oil companies to import diesel from America and other areas to meet consumer demand. The imported diesel must meet standard specifications to be sold and is independent of the source of the crude from which it originated.

"Valero meets all regulatory requirements and will continue to meet any regulatory requirements that may be introduced by the European Union or UK governments in the future."

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Environmentalists claim there are plans to bring quantities of hugely controversial crude oil bitumen - known as tar sands oil - to a Pembroke refinery
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:100NA
Date:Nov 12, 2012
Words:845
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