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Sanchi, the Iranian tanker carrying condensate to South Korea that crashed into a Chinese freight ship on January 6 and sank earlier this week, has produced two oil slicks, Chinese authorities report. There were several explosions on board the tanker, the last one proving fatal for the vessel.
Cleanup teams from China are now working to remove the slicks and are also monitoring the area to see which way they could drift, and assess the ecological impact of the disaster, which is the biggest one in decades in the area.
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.
Chinese scientists are now analyzing the ways in which the spill could affect the environment in the East China Sea and have come up with three possible scenarios, according to a South China Morning Post report.
Under the first scenario, traces from the spill could reach as far as the western North American coast as the tanker sank several dozen kilometers from the Black Tide—a current that is as strong as the Gulf Stream and is connected to the North Pacific Current, which reaches east of British Columbia and then splits into two currents, one heading up to Alaska and the other down to California.
The second scenario, in case pollutants don’t reach the Black Tide, sees any environmental damage restricted to the South China Sea, but the extent of the damage to marine ecosystems has yet to be established.
The third scenario, put forward by an offshore biology researcher, sees minimal damage if the pollutants reach the Black Tide, as they will, Guan Weibin argues, get diluted in the Pacific Ocean.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.