Half of Texas Oil Spill Contained, Waterway Remains Closed
January 26, 2010
About half of the crude oil spilled in a ship collision on the Sabine-Neches Waterway in Port Arthur, Texas has been contained, reports Reuters. The waterway will likely reopen soon, the U.S. Coast Guard said. Texas officials said about 11,000 barrels of oil spilled into the water when the double-hulled Eagle Otome tanker collided with a barge. It was the worst Texas spill since 1994. The tanker was carrying a load of high-sulfur Mexican crude, which gave off a heavy odor of rotten eggs as it evaporated and sickened some area residents. The waterway supplies oil to four Texas refineries representing 6.5 percent of U.S. capacity. The waterway will probably reopen to vessel traffic after ships skim oil from the water, said Captain J.J. Plunkett, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Port Arthur. The four area refineries have a combined refining capacity of 1.15 million barrels. Both of the vessels involved were chartered by subsidiaries of Exxon Mobil Corp. In the wake of the Valdez spill, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, mandating that all tank vessels meet double hull specifications by 2015. The tanker involved in Saturday''s Port Arthur collision -- the 807-foot Eagle Otome -- was double-hulled, which enabled it to capture about 9,000 barrels of oil that would have otherwise seeped into the water, Plunkett said. The Eagle Otome is owned by AET Tanker Holdings, which is paying for the cleanup.