This is a bit old, but Radley Balko linked this story about a many busted for taking pictures of a refinery
Police Chief Jim McDonnell has confirmed that detaining photographers for taking pictures “with no apparent esthetic value” is within Long Beach Police Department policy.
McDonnell spoke for a follow-up story on a June 30 incidentin which Sander Roscoe Wolff, a Long Beach resident and regular contributor to Long Beach Post, was detained by Officer Asif Kahn for taking pictures of North Long Beach refinery.
“If an officer sees someone taking pictures of something like a refinery,” says McDonnell, “it is incumbent upon the officer to make contact with the individual.” McDonnell went on to say that whether said contact becomes detainment depends on the circumstances the officer encounters.
McDonnell says that while there is no police training specific to determining whether a photographer’s subject has “apparent esthetic value,” officers make such judgments “based on their overall training and experience” and will generally approach photographers not engaging in “regular tourist behavior.”
This policy apparently falls under the rubric of compiling Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR) as outlined in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Special Order No. 11, a March 2008 statement of the LAPD’s “policy … to make every effort to accurately and appropriately gather, record and analyze information, of a criminal or non-criminal nature, that could indicate activity or intentions related to either foreign or domestic terrorism.”
Among the non-criminal behaviors “which shall be reported on a SAR” are the usage of binoculars and cameras (presumably when observing a building, although this is not specified), asking about an establishment’s hours of operation, taking pictures or video footage “with no apparent esthetic value,” and taking notes.
First, I think refineries are enormously interesting photography subjects (disclaimer: I used to work in the Exxon Baytown refinery) and I think they can be downright beautiful at night.
Second, I take pictures of industrial subjects all the time as potential guides for my model railroading. Incredibly-boring-for-most-people example here.
Glen Reynolds brings us this:
A provision in the US Carbon Neutral Government Act incorporated
into the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 act effectively
bars the US government from buying fuels that have greater life-cycle
emissions than fuels produced from conventional petroleum sources.
The United States has defined Alberta oilsands as unconventional
because the bitumen mined from the ground requires upgrading and
refining as opposed to the traditional crude pumped from oil wells.
California Democrat Representative Henry Waxman, chairman of the
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Republican Tom
Davis added the clause.
Uh, right. Since we all burn pure unrefined crude oil pumped right from the oil well in our car.
Here is what a traditional crude oil goes through before it becomes gasoline:
- Water and salt must be removed
- The oil is heated up to over 700 degrees, and is separated into its fractions via distillation. Oil is made up of hydrocarbon chains of many lengths, from short ones (methane, ethane, propane) to very long ones (asphalt, heavy motor oils). Gasoline is somewhere in between.
- Each fraction generally has to be de-sulfurized. This generally occurs by injecting hydrogen into the fraction across a catalyst bed to remove the sulfur as Hydrogen Sulfide, a dangerous gas that must be further processed to produce pure sulfur.
- The gasoline fractions in a typical oil are nowhere near large enough for the relative demand. So additional steps must be taken to produce gasoline:
- Very heavy fractions have their molecules cracked at high temperatures, either in cokers, high temperature crackers or in fluid catalyst bed crackers. These processes either remove carbon in its pure form or remove it by combining it with hydrogen
- Certain fractions are reformed in combination with hyrdrogen, sometimes across a platinum catalyst, to produce molecules with better properties for gasoline, including higher octane.
- All over a refinery, there are small units that take individual fractions that use a variety of processes to create specific molecules that have useful properties
- All of these different fractions and products are blended in various proportions to make different grades of gasoline. These blends and proportions can change from city to city (to meet environmental regulations, Phoenix must have a gasoline blend that is unique in the US) and must change season to season (gas that burns well in winter will vapor lock in the summer time).
I am sure I left tons of steps out, but you get the idea. Below are my old digs at Exxon's Baytown Texas Refinery, where I worked as an engineer for 3 years out of college: