27 July 2010 21:59 [Source: ICIS news]
(recast with new third paragraph)
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A towboat collision involving two barges of acrylonitrile (ACN) closed a seven-mile (11.3 km) stretch of the Mississippi river north of Memphis, Tennessee, the US Coast Guard (USCG) said on Tuesday.
The collision occurred about 21:00 hours local time on Monday (2:00 GMT Tuesday), when the 128-foot Merrick Jones, pushing 26 barges, collided with the Dixie Express, an 87-foot towing vessel pushing two ACN barges.
The Coast Guard gave no indication when the stretch of the river would be reopened.
The chemical barges carried 626 bbl of ACN, or roughly 26,292 gal, said USCG petty officer Elizabeth Bordelon.
USCG marine and pollution investigators had not determined yet if all the ACN cargo was lost, Bordelon said.
"That's the worst-case scenario," Bordelon added.
Acrylonitrile is a highly flammable, toxic and pungent-smelling colour-less liquid used in plastics. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that there was inadequate evidence that it had a carcinogenic effect on humans.
Three crew members on the Dixie Express were picked up by another towing vessel, the Henry Soudelier, and taken to Methodist North Hospital in Memphis by emergency officials, the USCG said.
The Mississippi river was closed just north of Memphis between markers 776 and 769, according to the USCG.
A vessel was en route from Cairo, Illinois, to begin emptying the chemical barges on Tuesday night, Bordelon said.
Bordelon said 34 vessels were waiting to pass through the area.
Clean-up responders also are on the scene, according to the USCG.
Oil traders did not expect the incident to have any effect on crude movement up the river unless the closure is extended, according to a Reuters news report.
A spokesman for Valero Energy, which operates a 195,000 bbl/day refinery in Memphis, said there was no impact on operations at the refinery, according to Reuters.
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