04 October 2010 19:46 [Source: ICIS news]
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HOUSTON (ICIS)--A barge accident on the weekend has closed the Houston Ship Channel to inbound and outbound traffic until at least Tuesday evening, the US Coast Guard (USCG) said on Monday.
Four refineries affected by the closing of a 19-mile (31 km) section of the upper Houston Ship Channel will require crude oil from tankers by Wednesday, said USCG Captain Marcus Woodring at a press conference.
The four are Royal Dutch Shell's joint-venture 327,000 bbl/day refinery in Deer Park; LyondellBasell's 268,000 bbl/day Houston; Pasadena Refining's 100,000 bbl/day Houston; and Valero's 83,000 bbl/day Houston refinery.
Exxon Mobil Corp's 560,640 bbl/day refinery in Baytown, Texas, the nation's largest, is not among those affected by the shutdown, the Coast Guard said.
Most refineries keep crude supplies in storage for short-term disruptions.
In fact, the closure should have no adverse effect on the refining operations of LyondellBasell, according to a statement by David Harpole, company spokesman. "We have the ability to receive crude oil shipments at locations other than our refinery docks," he said.
Woodring said the Coast Guard had stopped all inbound and outbound traffic to the channel and established a safety zone from mile marker 105 to 124.
However, Woodring said there was some point-to-point movement by chemical carriers on the channel within the closed area. Woodring said there were 30 vessels waiting to get in and out of the channel, 18 inbound and 12 outbound.
"Each day that number grows a little more," Woodring said, adding that a 19-mile section of the waterway would be closed until Tuesday night "at the earliest."
A barge struck a 300-foot-tall (100m-tall) electrical tower at the narrowest segment of the waterway in Baytown Sunday morning, Woodring said. The tower currently is being held up by one of the barges.
The tow boat Safety Quest was pushing three barges, all loaded with scrap metal.
No one was injured. Woodring said the Coast Guard is investigating the incident.
The power to the line has been secured and poses no danger to the public, said Robert Gordon, an executive at Centerpoint Energy, which owns the line.
Houston is the hub of the US petrochemical industry. The ship channel serves five refineries, which make up 8.5% of the nation's refining capacity.
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