With attention focused on Politics, Pilots, Planes and Passengers, it is no surprise that county planners may have been slow in studying a fifth vital requirement for a commercial airport at El Toro...Petrol
Airports require huge supplies of jet fuel, delivered from refineries by tanker truck or by pipeline.. Smaller airports rely on trucking. Larger airports, like LAX, rely on more efficient pipelines.
Calculating fuel needs starts with the county's own projections of flight activity. The latest figures for the Supervisors' "preferred" Option B calls for 827 daily flight operations serving 28.8 million annual passengers.
There will be over 413 takeoffs each day... one plane being serviced and taking off every three to four minutes, around the clock, seven days per week.
This may be low. Department of Transportation data shows an average domestic consumption of 29 gallons per passenger. On this basis, El Toro would consume 2,280,000 gallons per day.
MCAS El Toro was supplied by a Navy owned pipeline. The pipeline runs underground for 29.5 miles from the Norwalk Defense Fuel Supply storage depot to El Toro. A 2.5 mile spur cuts off to supply MCAS Tustin. The Norwalk depot is supplied from San Pedro and other refineries over an Air Force owned pipeline.
Transfer of the base to the County would not include the pipeline, which reportedly has easements for military use only. For the county to obtain the pipeline by purchase or otherwise, the transaction would have to go through the federal surplus property disposal process which takes at least three years and requires an act of Congress.
The normal military procedure for deactivating a surplus pipeline is to clean it and fill it with inert nitrogen. Sometimes the line is filled solid with grout.
Public scrutiny would be necessary should the county be allowed to acquire the pipeline. Careful consideration must be given to the potentially serious cleanup liability as the 41 year-old steel line ages. Three leaks in Tustin, caused by construction in the vicinity in 1990, require monitoring of the fuel plume that was released into the soil and ground water. Several cities, and many property owners - in Orange and Los Angeles Counties - could be impacted if it becomes necessary to dig up the line and repair, replace or expand it.
The City of Tustin argued in Superior Court that environmental consideration must be given to fuel delivery because close to "a billion gallons of flammable jet fuel will need to be transported annually through populated areas." The county argued that the reuse of the existing pipeline is "not an essential" but only the "most likely option for fuel delivery" and therefore does not require consideration under California environmental law.
The military pipeline has a capacity of 438 gallons per minute or 630,000 gallons per day.
Even if the county could acquire the military pipeline, its capacity is only one-third of the 2,000,000 gallons needed for an international airport of the size projected in the Community Reuse Plan.
A second, 16 inch commercial pipeline, operated by Kinder Morgan, a commodities company, runs from San Pedro to San Diego's Lindbergh Field, with terminals at Norwalk and Orange, and hits the El Toro base's southern border. It is unclear when this line, called the Santa Fe Pacific Pipeline, was constructed or what capacity is available to serve El Toro.
Both pipelines would need spurs to reach the above-ground storage tanks planned for a south-eastern corner of the proposed airport.
The alternate, and less efficient way to deliver jet fuel is by truck. John Wayne Airport, handling fewer and smaller planes than planned for El Toro, and flying shorter routes, reportedly brings in 10 to 20 tanker trucks each night. The number of trucks needed to service the planned El Toro International Airport would be enormous.
If the airport is serviced with truck tankers, carrying 8,000 gallons, then delivering 2,000,000 gallons would require 250 truck round trips a day. Some analysts have made higher estimates.
The 250 daily truck loads of fuel would have to arrive at the average rate of 10-11 an hour, or one every six minutes, around the clock... and then depart.
It takes time to unload the fuel. At a rate of 100 gallons per minute, each truck would require around 80 minutes to unload.
During that 80 minutes, 13-14 others would pull up, one every six minutes, to begin unloading.
One observer noted that this number of trucks, spaced 60 feet apart, would make a convoy extending for almost three miles on each side of the freeway, coming and going.
The traffic, air pollution, and safety aspects of such an operation are a major concern.
Trucks, or pipelines, empty into storage tanks. The fuel is then withdrawn as needed for the planes.
What about fuel storage tanks to backup a 2,000,000 gallon daily usage? Reserves must be kept on hand - to cover peaks in demand, equipment failures, supply interruptions and the like. One preliminary analysis reports that an airport of the size planned for El Toro will need a fuel farm of seven days or 14,000,000 gallons capacity.
The Public Relations Officer at El Toro provided this information about the Marine Corp.'s fuel storage tanks:
Originally 408 total tanks were on base (some were 6,000 gal.). 329 of these tanks have been removed. 4 were capped and filled with sand (not reusable). 18 were closed and ready for removal. The remaining 57 tanks were for Marine use till their departure.
All but about four of the remaining 57 tanks will go out of environmental code in the year 2002. Therefore, the Marines plan to remove ALL tanks. No fuel storage facilities will remain!