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Oil Tanker Collision In Houston Causes Leak, Closes Critical Port

Barge Houston

A collision between an oil tanker and a tug boat in the Houston Ship Channel on Friday caused a capsizing and an oil derivative leak. The tug boat, according to reports, was moving two barges, one of which capsized as a result of the collision.

The two vessels were carrying a combined 25,000 tons of reformate. This is a by-product of oil refining that is used in the production of gasoline. According to the most recent report from the Houston Chronicle, some 9,000 barrels of reformate was spilled in the waterway and cleanup is continuing. According to estimates made by port officials, the cleanup and the removal of the fuel from the barges’ tankers will take around two days.

So far, the oil spill response crews have deployed 3,800 feet of boom around the barges and another 12,000 feet of boom in surrounding areas to protect the ecosystem while the cleanup continues.

The Houston Ship Channel was closed after the collision but was reopened on Sunday after an official from the Texas General Land Office's oil spill prevention program said the water was not dangerous for humans even though there had been several reports about dead animals in the vicinity.

The cause of the collision is yet to be established but whatever it is, the cost for Houston Port will be high. The port is one of the busiest in the United States and every hour it remains closed carries a hefty price tag.

The Houston Chronicle reports the accident will be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and that it will be the fifth accident the NTSB will investigate in the Houston Ship Channel in five years. One of these, in 2014, resulted in a spill of 168,000 gallons of bunkering fuel and the other, a year later, led to a spill of 88,000 gallons of a gasoline additive. Both accidents followed tanker collisions.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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