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Shell Ups Output Forecast

LOS ANGELES -- Shell Oil Co. said Monday that it plans to operate its Bakersfield refinery at a "normal summertime" rate through Labor Day, saying that an internal forecast indicating otherwise was revised, reported the Los Angeles Times.

The company, which plans to close the refinery Oct. 1, had said in the forecast that Bakersfield's crude oil processing would be cut 6 percent in July and another 6 percent in August.

Those production strategies actually "were preliminary planning scenarios that were subsequently reviewed and revised," said Shell spokesman Stan Mays. "We plan on running as we normally would in July and August."

Mays declined to say when the forecast, distributed to employees within the last four weeks, was modified and wouldn't disclose the amended output figures.

A statement that Shell issued Monday described as "entirely inaccurate" a report that Bakersfield's production would slow down during the height of the summer driving season. The forecast attributed a cutback in July at the Martinez refinery in the Bay Area to maintenance projects.

In an interview with The Times last week, Aamir Farid, general manager of the Bakersfield and Martinez refineries, said the company would operate both plants "as we normally would." He added: "To be honest with you, as the head guy, I have not looked at July in detail…. You're throwing numbers at me that I can't tell you if they're absolutely right or absolutely wrong."

In the interview, Farid also said that if there were cutbacks planned for Bakersfield, there would be a "good reason" for it, adding: "It probably has to do with crude acquisition."

The plan to close Bakersfield is controversial, with critics charging that shuttering the profitable refinery would reduce supplies of gasoline and diesel and push up retail prices for both fuels. Shell has defended the decision on financial grounds.
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