Gasoline Terminals

Portland, Oregon has one of the most toxic airsheds in the nation, according to EPA’s National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment.  Pollutants emanating from several giant fuel holding tanks situated directly northwest of the city are one of the many contributors to this problem. These tanks store petroleum products like gasoline, diesel and industrial lubricant oils. They are operated by Chevron, Kinder Morgan, BP, Conoco, Shore Terminals (formerly Exxon Mobil) and Equilon Enterprises (formerly Texaco doing business as Shell). Fuel reaches these tanks via railroad cars, marine vessels and the Olympic pipeline, which is an underground pipeline operated by BP. Environmental reporter Paul Koberstein estimates these tanks leak hundreds of tons of gasoline each year.


There have been numerous incidents where NW residents have complained of gasoline odors and resulting headaches. For example, in the spring of 2009, NW Portland residents experienced “unburned fuel” odors that lasted approximately two weeks. These residents’ complaints triggered Oregon DEQ’s odor response plan. Each gasoline company is required to contact DEQ if there has been a leak, spill or control equipment malfunction.  However, it’s difficult to trace the source of an acute odor incident if companies fail to report.

I photographed these tanks from two vantage points: up close in NW Portland and also from the east side of the Willamette River at the Skidmore Bluff.


Chemicals like benzene, toluene and hexane are associated with gasoline storage. The federal minimum pollution prevention rules require gasoline holding tanks to be equipped with floating roofs, and primary and secondary seals. These rules also set pollutant emission limits and establish trigger levels for leak detection.

Neighbors for Clean Air is a coalition seeking to make public health a priority in the development of Oregon’s air quality standards. NCA’s website has a feature that lets you can map and track the locations of suspicious industrial odors reported in Portland! Here is a link to  NCA’s petition asking the state to “establish enforceable standards that address the risk of spikes of emissions in the toxic hot spots.” Whether to sign is your prerogative.  I intend for this blog to simply present facts and photos.


Below is footage from a devastating gasoline storage tank explosion in  Puerto Rico (2009).


2 Responses to Gasoline Terminals

  1. PURGIT has a tank degassing and vapor control service that makes no pollution and recovers the cargo for recycling. We work on large gasoline and chemical tanks. We are the only service company in the world that has this equipment. We can also install recovery equipment on storage tanks to recover the vapor that comes out around the floating roof, making them have extremely low levels of emissions.

  2. Pingback: Sequential: A Different Approach to Fuel « Downstream Press

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