25 January 2010 19:32 [Source: ICIS news]
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HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The US Coast Guard (USCG) hopes to reopen a Texas waterway within five days following a weekend oil spill that occurred when a collision ripped a hole in an oil tanker, an officer said on Monday.
The Sabine/Neches waterway near Port Arthur would be opened to resupply upstream refineries, even if the cleanup of the 462,000 gal (11,268 bbl) of crude is not finished, said petty officer Casey Ranel. "That's what we're hoping for," Ranel said.
Officials said that in addition to the expense of the cleanup, keeping the waterway closed would cost $200m (€142m) a day in economic impact beginning on Monday, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The spill, said to be the largest in Texas in two decades, occurred on Saturday following a collision between a towboat pushing two barges and the 807-foot (246-metre) Eagle Otome, which was bound for ExxonMobil’s Beaumont refinery.
Ranel said 220,053 gal of oil have been either recovered or evaporated.
The massive recovery operation involves 550 workers, with almost 60,000 feet of boom deployed. No injuries were reported.
The Sabine Neches Waterway, near most of the US Gulf coast's oil refining and petrochemical capacity, was closed to all vessel traffic along the city of Port Arthur's riverfront from Intracoastal Waterway mile marker 278 to Mesquite Point on the waterway, the Coast Guard said. Port Arthur is roughly 90 miles east of Houston.
The Coast Guard has established a perimeter around the vessels in the spill vicinity to ensure the safety of the vessels involved as well as the safety of responders.
The US petrochemical industry contains numerous plants and terminals in the Port Arthur area, including a huge terminal for Kinder Morgan, Oxbow and Valero.
The terminal presently has 300 railcars of soda ash stored there plus 300 more cars enroute to the terminal "that will have to find a home somewhere along the way", said Neils Lyngso, director of maritime affairs for the West Gulf Maritime Association, a shipping trade group.
Officials at the terminal did not return calls on Monday.The spill is Texas' largest since 1994, but remains dwarfed by the March 1989 incident in which the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska's Prince William Sound, spilling about 258,000 bbl.
Both of the vessels involved in the Port Arthur spill were chartered by subsidiaries of ExxonMobil, which said on Monday it was "very concerned about this unfortunate incident", a spokesman said in a Reuters report.
After the Valdez spill, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 mandating that all tank vessels meet double hull specifications by 2015.
The tanker in the Port Arthur collision was double-hulled and carrying a load of high-sulphur Mexican crude, which smelled like rotten eggs as it evaporated, according to a Reuters report.
The Coast Guard said the vessel might have caught some of the oil in its hull rather than releasing it into the water.
The Eagle Otome's owner, AET Tanker Holdings, is paying for the cleanup, according to the Coast Guard.
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