Santa Maria Refinery Rail Project


The Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery has operated on the Nipomo Mesa for more than 55 years and employs approximately 200 people. The facility is currently in process with the County on a proposed rail project. We are providing the information below as an overview of project details. All project documents are available online on the SLO County website,  Please call the refinery message line, (805)788-4443, if you need additional information.


The refinery has filed an application with San Luis Obispo County for approval to extend existing rail track on refinery property and install equipment needed to enable rail delivery of crude oil.


Changes in the California oil industry are changing the way the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery does business. The refinery processes crude oil that arrives via underground pipe from locations throughout California. 

With the decline in California crude oil production, the refinery is looking to alternate sources outside the state for reliable supplies of competitively priced crude oil.  However, there are no pipelines that connect the refinery to these alternate sources of crude oil and the refinery does not have a marine offloading facility. The solution is to utilize and enhance our existing rail facility to enable rail delivery of crude oil.

The refinery already uses trains to transport products, and refinery personnel have decades of experience safely handling railcars. The proposed change will help the refinery, and the approximately 200 jobs it provides, remain viable in an increasingly challenging environment.   


Like everything we do at Phillips 66, this project is designed with safety in mind and we are implementing a number of safety measures as part of the project. We take pride in safe operations at the Santa Maria Refinery have earned our industry’s highest recognition for safety performance.

The Union Pacific railroad will be responsible for delivering the crude oil rail cars to the refinery. They safely transport a variety of products, including crude oil, through SLO County every day. We have a good relationship with the railroad; we are working closely with them on this project and we have confidence in their capabilities.

The proposed design was developed specifically to avoid sensitive environmental resources. The project would occupy fewer than 30 acres of the refinery’s 1,600-acre site. The project will utilize the refinery’s existing rail facilities as well as a portion of refinery property currently used for cattle grazing.

There will be minimal increased water usage associated with this project to provide for an employee restroom at the rail facility – about the same amount of water used by a typical household.

Project specifics

• The project will employ 30-50 temporary positions during the nine-month construction period. Depending on the final approved project, several new full-time operating positions could also be added.

• The project would extend the refinery’s existing track and include construction of an “unloading rack” used to move the oil into the refinery’s storage tanks. 

• Up to five 80-car trains would deliver the oil to the refinery weekly.

• Crude oil will come from a variety of sources in North America that meet the refinery’s specifications. The Santa Maria Refinery is designed to run heavy crude oils that are typical of the type of crude oil produced in California.

• Trains will enter the refinery via a spur from the existing rail track and be secured for 24-hour turnaround unloading.

• Pending approval of state and local permits, construction is expected to begin in mid-2014 with the rail spur operational in 2015.

project approval process

• The draft Environmental Impact Report was released in November 2013. The public has an opportunity to provide comments and questions on the draft EIR during the 60-day public comment period that ends in late January 2014.

• Once the comment period has closed, the County’s EIR consultant will review and address questions and comments.

• A Final Draft EIR will be released and the project will be scheduled for a public hearing before the SLO County Planning Commission. That meeting is currently scheduled for April 24, 2014.

• In addition to County oversight, the proposal will be reviewed by government agencies including the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  

Additional information: