The Texas General Land Office has announced that the number of oil spills that it must respond to has fallen over the last decade, but that it is not uncommon for them to deal with one or two a day in the Houston region, stretching from Galveston County to Matagorda Bay.
Richard Arnhart, the regional director for the oil spill prevention and response division, said that “in the ‘90s, it wasn’t anything to have three to eight spills a day.”
Two spills a day may still seem like a lot when picturing catastrophes such as the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 that leaked more than 4 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, or the Exxon Valdez spill that released 257,000 barrels in Alaskan waters in 1989; but the fact is that the spills dealt with by the General Land Office are far smaller. Arnhart explains to Fuel Fix that anything that results in a sheen or discolouration of the water is logged as a spill.
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Arnhart went on to state that the last two significant spills were the Highland Bayou spill on 22nd March 2012, which saw 130 barrels of oil spilt at the Dune Energy facility in Hancock; and the Texas City Dike spill on 19th August 2011, where 35 barrels were spilled in the Port of Texas City.
He attributes the falling number of spills to improved safety measures, and the growing cost of a spill. Greg Pollock, the deputy commissioner of the land office stated that “the cost for a day of an oil spill is outrageous,” as they often close the Houston Ship Channel affecting shipping activity in the area, and causing shippers to lose valuable time, all of which must be paid for by the responsible party.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com
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