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Oil From Sunk Tanker May Have Reached Japan

Blobs of oil-like liquid have been detected on several Japanese beaches, government officials report, cited by AFP, worried that it could be contamination from the Sanchi tanker that sank in the Eastern China Sea more than two weeks ago.

The government is currently analyzing the substance and has sent the coast guard to start cleaning up the beaches. "It is still uncertain whether this is related to the Sanchi. We are currently collecting and analysing samples," government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told media, adding that, "We are taking measures to contain (contamination) and dispatching patrol vessels and planes while working closely together with China and other nations."

There are certain fears among some local officials that there could be more oil coming if the blobs are proven to be from the Sanchi.

Sanchi, the Iranian tanker carrying condensate to South Korea that crashed into a Chinese freight ship on January 6 and sank almost two weeks later, produced two oil slicks. The Sanchi carried almost a million barrels of condensate, the ultralight petroleum liquid that is much more flammable than crude oil. It is also colorless and odorless, which makes cleanup difficult. The tanker has been located at a depth of almost 500 feet between China’s Zhejiang province and the Japanese island of Ryukyu.

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At the time, Chinese scientists worked on three scenarios for the spills, the worst of which said traces of oil could reach as far as the western North American coast. But that’s not all: in addition to the condensate and fuel from the wreck, some observers also noted the crews that tried to extinguish the fire on board the Sanchi had used toxic AFFF foam that is also harmful to marine life.

Japanese and Chinese authorities at the time said that they were working to break up the hydrocarbons at sea, noting oil condensate’s high volatility, which prevents it from forming the slicks usually associated with crude oil spills. Even so, the substance is toxic to marine life.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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