July 24, 2008 at 2:52 pm #3517
Mississippi Shut for `Several Days’ After Spill; 59 Ships Held
By Todd Zeranski and Robert Tuttle
July 24, 2008 (Bloomberg) — The biggest U.S. ship-related oil
spill in almost eight years has shut the lower end of the
Mississippi River, prompting companies including ConocoPhillips
to curtail dock operations.
The river will be closed for “several days” after a
tanker and barge collided yesterday, spilling about 419,000
gallons (1.59 million liters) of fuel oil from the barge,
according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The river is closed from the Southwest Pass, the main
navigation outlet to the Gulf of Mexico, to mile marker 97, near
New Orleans. Transits by at least 59 ships have been suspended,
the Coast Guard said.
It will be “several days before we can even open the
river,” Coast Guard Lieutenant Ana Visneski said in a telephone
interview from New Orleans. The spill will require “several
weeks” to clean up, she said.
“The sheen is covering about 70 percent” of the 97-mile
(156-kilometer) stretch, said Jaclyn Young, a Coast Guard
Operations at regional refineries run by Murphy Oil Corp.,
Exxon Mobil Corp. and Motiva Enterprises LLC haven’t been
affected, the companies said.
Valero Energy Corp. the biggest U.S. refiner, also was not
affected by the river’s closure, Bill Day, a company spokesman,
said in an e-mail.
Biggest Since 2000
The spill is the largest in the U.S. from a ship since
November 2000, when about 567,000 gallons seeped from the vessel
Westchester about 60 miles south of New Orleans, according to
Andrew Tucker, a technical adviser to the London-based
International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd.
Cleanup crews “are working as fast as they can,” Young
said. About 30 miles of the river were closed yesterday
following the spill. An investigation by the National
Transportation Safety Board is under way.
The spill involves a “commercial fuel oil that is lighter
than regular fuel oil and dissipates at a quicker speed,” the
Coast Guard said. The collision occurred near mile marker 98
north of New Orleans.
The spill has backed up 21 northbound vessels and 38
southbound vessels, Visneski said.
No marshlands were damaged, and there were no injuries in
Jeffersonville, Indiana-based American Commercial Lines
Inc., which owns the barge, said in a statement that it was not
responsible for the collision with the Liberian-flagged tanker
Tintomara. The barge was being towed by DRD Towing Co., of
ConocoPhillips shut the docks at its Alliance refinery at
Belle Chasse, Louisiana. The refinery, 25 miles south of New
Orleans, has the capacity to process 247,000 barrels of oil a
day, according to the company’s Web site. Most of
ConocoPhillips’s products are shipped to customers in the
Southeast and Eastern U.S.
The closing hasn’t disrupted operations or outgoing fuel
deliveries at the Exxon Mobil-operated refinery in Chalmette,
Louisiana, near New Orleans, spokeswoman Susan Kattelus said in
an e-mailed statement. The 184,000 barrel-a-day plant is jointly
owned by Venezuela’s state-controlled oil company, Petroleos de
Murphy Oil, which runs a 125,000 barrel-per-day refinery
outside New Orleans in Meraux, Louisiana, has not been affected,
Dory Stiles, a company spokesman, said in a telephone interview.
Stiles declined to say how long it would take the closure to
Motiva said the shutdown had not reduced output at its
Norco or Convent refineries. The Norco plant can process 240,000
barrels of oil a day, the Convent refinery has a capacity of
225,000 barrels a day, the company said.
Marathon Oil Corp. declined to comment.
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