Santa Maria Refinery Rail Project


The Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery has operated on the Nipomo Mesa for nearly 60 years and employs approximately 200 people. Phillips 66 is currently working with San Luis Obispo County and other government agencies to obtain permits to extend the existing rail spur within the refinery property. We have provided information regarding the project below. Project documents are available online on the SLO County website, Please call the refinery message line if you need additional information at 805-788-4441.


Phillips 66 has filed an application with San Luis Obispo County for approval to extend the existing rail track on refinery property and install equipment needed to enable rail delivery of North American crude oil.


Changes in the California oil industry are affecting the way the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery does business. The Santa Maria Refinery currently processes crude oil that arrives via underground pipe from locations throughout California. With the decline in California crude oil production, Phillips 66 is looking for alternate sources outside the state for reliable supplies of competitively priced crude oil that can be processed at the refinery. 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 currently uses trains to transport products, and refinery personnel have decades of experience in safely handling railcars. The proposed change will help the refinery, and the approximately 200 permanent jobs it provides, remain viable under increasingly challenging business conditions.

Safety and Environmental Considerations

Everything at Phillips 66 is done with safety as the highest priority. We take special pride in the safe operations of the Santa Maria Refinery, which earned our facility the highest safety honor awarded by the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM).

The proposed rail project is designed with safety as the top priority and with safety measures embedded in the project. Phillips 66 has one of the most modern crude rail fleets in service in the industry, and we’ve been managing train movements on site for decades with an excellent safety record. Currently, we are modernizing our rail fleet to meet the newest safety standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation. All Phillips 66 railcars that would deliver crude to the refinery will meet or exceed the DOT 117 standards.

The Union Pacific Railroad will be responsible for delivering the crude oil railcars to the refinery. Union Pacific safely transports a variety of products, including crude oil, through SLO County every day. We have confidence in Union Pacific's capabilities and are working closely with the railroad on this project. The proposed project was specifically designed to avoid sensitive environmental resources. The project will extend the existing railroad track by approximately four thousand feet within the refinery property, occupying fewer than 30 acres (less than 2%) of the refinery's 1,600-acre site.

This project will not increase water usage at the refinery, with the exception of water usage associated with a new employee restroom that will be located near the rail extension. The restroom will require less than the amount of water used by a typical household on the mesa.

Project Specifics

  • The project will create 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 will 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 three 80-car trains will unload oil at 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 2017 with the rail spur operational by 2018.

Project Approval Process

  • The original Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) was released in November 2013. The public provided comments on the DEIR during the 60-day public comment period that ended in January 2014.

  • San Luis Obispo County requested that the DEIR be revised to expand the analysis of potential impact along the mainline railroad outside SLO County and that the revised document be recirculated for another 45 days for public review.

  • Following the comment period, the county's EIR consultant reviewed and addressed questions and comments.

  • A Final EIR was released by county staff in early 2016, and the project was discussed at several public hearings before the SLO County Planning Commission. In May 2016, the Planning Commission requested terms of project approval be included. Following the submittal of additional information by Phillips 66, the commission voted to deny the rail spur project on Oct. 5, 2016.

  • Phillips 66 has exercised our right to appeal, and we will continue to consider all options for this project.

  • In addition to county oversight, the proposal is being reviewed by government agencies including the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and CalFire.

For more information, you can also visit

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