Shell denies it will cut gas production over the summer

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Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Two refineries operated by Shell Oil Co., including one in Bakersfield slated to be closed in October, will operate at normal capacities through the summer, Shell said Monday.

A report in Monday’s Los Angeles Times said that internal documents obtained by the Times revealed plans to cut production at Bakersfield by 6 percent in July and August. Shell documents posted online Monday by a consumer advocacy group supported the Times’ report.

The documents showed plans to cut production at Shell‘s Martinez plant in the San Francisco Bay by nearly 10 percent in July.

July and August are months of peak demand for gasoline in the state.

Shell, which plans to close the Bakersfield plant this fall, said Monday the company has no plans to alter production at either location through Labor Day.

Shell plans to operate both the Bakersfield and Martinez refineries at normal summertime operations through the full summer driving season that closes around Labor Day,” the company said in a statement issued Monday. “There are no plans to slow production rates at the Bakersfield refinery in July or August. Any reports to the contrary are entirely inaccurate.”

Shell‘s Houston-based spokesman Stan Mays said he did not know which documents the Times had seen.

The company’s statement said the documents “seem to represent preliminary and early planning scenarios that have since been reviewed and revised.”

A consumer rights group, however, posted internal Shell documents online that backed the Times’ report.

A document with a May 25 date showed the planned maintenance and production cutbacks at both plants in July and August.

“For Shell to say this is an old plan doesn’t acknowledge the date on the document,” said Jamie Court, president of The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. He said the group obtained the documents from several whistle-blowers.

The Santa Monica-based group also sent a letter Monday to the state attorney general’s office and the Federal Trade Commission that urged a regulatory response against Shell to keep gas prices from spiking this summer in California.

When asked for comment on the documents, Shell spokesman Mays said Monday that production plans were revised earlier in June by the company.

“The documents that appear to have been leaked were early planning scenarios that have been changed,” Mays said. “It is not accurate information at this point of time.”

The Bakersfield facility is among the state’s smallest and makes only 2 percent of California’s gas and 6 percent of its diesel.

Shell has said it will close the refinery, but last month, Attorney General Bill Lockyer hired an oil industry consultant to help find a buyer for the facility.

California Sen. Barbara Boxer accused Shell Oil last month of planning to begin shutting down its refinery in Bakersfield sooner than publicly disclosed. A company spokesman denied the allegation.

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