40 Percent of Oil Spill Evaporated, Dispersed

10 percent recovered, 40 percent evaporated or dispersed

Monday, Jan 25, 2010  |  Updated 12:45 PM CDT
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40 Percent of Oil Spill Evaporated, Dispersed

PORT ARTHUR, Texas - The Coast Guard and agency partners have formed a Unified Command in response to an oil spill in the Port of Port Arthur, Saturday.

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Nearly half the oil that spilled at a major Texas port during a collision between a tanker and a towing vessel has evaporated, dispersed or been recovered from the water, the Coast Guard said Monday.

About 175,000 gallons of oil has evaporated or dispersed, Coast Guard Petty Officer Casey Ranel said. Some 46,200 gallons -- or 10 percent of the total oil spilled -- was recovered.

About 462,000 gallons of oil spilled when an 800-foot tanker headed for an Exxon Mobil Corp. refinery in Beaumont collided Saturday with a vessel pushing two barges. Nobody was hurt.

It was the largest spill in Texas in 16 years, but still well shy of one 20 years ago involving Norwegian tanker Mega Borg that leaked 4.3 million gallons of crude oil about 60 miles off Galveston.

Two sensitive wildlife areas nearby remain unaffected by the spill, which is mostly contained in a 2-mile stretch of the Sabine Neches Waterway near Port Arthur, about 90 miles east of Houston. Authorities have received one report of an oil-covered heron, and residents have been urged to report other affected animals.

The shipping channel is closed, and it remains unclear when it will reopen, Ranel said.

About 500 responders on the water and in the command post worked overnight to contain the spill. Nearly 46,000 feet of plastic walls known as booms and 15 oil-sucking skimmer boats were in the water, Ranel said.

The Eagle Otome collided with a towing vessel pushing two barges on Saturday, leaving a 15-foot-by-8-foot hole in the tanker. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Coast Guard are investigating.

The Eagle Otome is owned by AET Tankers, a Malaysian company with offices in Houston.

"We have no insight right now into what caused it," said AET spokesman Darrell Wilson. "The Coast Guard has an investigation team in place ... and we are fully participating in that investigation process."

The company is working with the Coast Guard on cleanup, although it's unclear who will pay for it.

"It was our product that spilled and right now, we are the ones responsible for cleaning it up," Wilson said.

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