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Mississippi Shut several days – Spill – 59 ships held

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    Charles Randall

    Mississippi Shut for `Several Days’ After Spill; 59 Ships Held
    (New York)
    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
    the collision.
         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
    Harvey, Louisiana.

                          ConocoPhillips Docks

         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
    Venezuela SA.
         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
    affect operations.
         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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