Exxon Corp. and Chevron Corp. are considering closing their oil barge terminals in Salisbury on the Eastern Shore to increase efficiency.
Such a move could put more oil tanker trucks on the road and present more of an environmental threat to the Eastern Shore, according to a water transport business group.
Judy M. Carlson, administrator of Delmarva Water Transport Committee, said that for every barge that can carry 4,116 tons of oil, 147 28-ton tanker trucks would have to be used to carry in the oil. "You are actually compounding the environmental damage," she said.
Other companies with oil terminal operations in Salisbury are Amerada Hess, Cato Oil, AMOCO Corp., and Delmarva Oil. All the terminals together handle about 700,000 tons of oil products, Ms. Carlson said.
Besides putting more oil trucks on the highways, a reduction in oil shipments might reduce the importance of the Wicomico River port in the eyes of the Army Corps of Engineers, which might reduce the dredging of the 14-foot channel.
That, in turn, could hurt the port's aggregate agricultural imports.
"It will have a mushroom effect on a lot of things," Ms. Carlson said.
While Exxon and Chevron are looking at their Salisbury operations, neither has said it has made a decision.
"Exxon is evaluating the possible closure or sale of its Salisbury terminal," said company spokesman Les Rogers. But the terminal will continue to operate into the fall of the year, he said.
"If a decision were made to close the terminal, Exxon would continue to supply its customers in the area through other arrangements," he said.
Mr. Rogers said the company is considering the move to close the terminal because it might be able to serve its Eastern Shore customers more efficiently by trucking in the oil products or by establishing an "exchange" agreement with another oil company.
Under that kind of agreement, one company provides petroleum products at one location in exchange for the other company's providing oil products at another location.
The Exxon Salisbury terminal handles about 16 million gallons of oil products a year, including gasoline, heating oil, kerosene and diesel fuel.
About 80 percent of the shipments through the terminal are gasoline, Mr. Rogers said.
Chevron is evaluating the Salisbury terminal as part of its review of all terminal operations, said Chevron spokesman Luddy Hayden.
"It is constantly under review," Mr. Hayden said, adding that any decision would be based on the efficiency of the operation.
The Salisbury terminal handles about 36 million gallons of oil products annually, much of it gasoline, he said.
In January, Chevron announced an effort to reduce the cost of producing a barrel of oil by 50 cents, Mr. Hayden said.
Exxon has four workers at its Salisbury terminal, and Chevron has two.
Both terminals are supplied by Chevron's refinery in Philadelphia. Exxon receives its oil under an exchange agreement with Chevron.
Neither Exxon nor Chevron cited new federal air regulations on vapor recovery from oil storage facilities as a reason for their considerations at the Salisbury facility. But Mr. Hayden said it is an overall concern for the company.
"We are quite concerned about the cost to the company to meet the Clean Air Act," he said.
It is also a concern of operators at other Salisbury terminals.
"It's a little bewildering," said Mike Abercrombie Sr., president of Cato Oil, of the new government regulations.
Mr. Abercrombie said his family bought the terminal seven years ago for $330,000 and now expects to have to invest $1.5 million in the next several years to bring it up to the new standards.
He said the cost has has raised questions about continuing the operation. "We are analyzing the situation," he said.