Monday, November 29, 2010

Oil Tankers are Black

Most oil tankers are black – it’s the industry practice to obscure oil stains. This is not a comforting thought.

This is the Alaskan Navigator, a 941.6 foot long oil tanker that carries 1.3 million barrels of crude oil. In this picture, it is berthed at our own British Petroleum (BP) Cherry Point Refinery – the largest oil refinery in Washington, which processes 225,000 barrels per day. Massive pumps on the tanker enable crude oil to be discharged over water to the refinery at a rate of over 500 gallons per minute.

If you look closely at the water in the foreground, you’ll notice oil containment boom and whitecaps. Water is flowing over the top of the boom. The wind was blowing about 25 knots on this day. Does this look like safe conditions for discharging 500 gallons of crude oil per minute? Does the boom completely surround the tanker? Will the boom do anything? I sure hope so. The pre-booming requirements state that the facility must pre-boom oil transfers if it is safe and effective to do so. This is uncomfortably vague.

I’m just an observer here, on my local beach. To me, this appears to be neither safe, or effective. If oil was to spill, it would not be collected inside the boom because the water is overtopping it. Is there a better boom available that would work in these weather conditions? Is anybody checking to make sure this is safe?

If you’re as curious as I am, go take a look – it’s fascinating. Take your camera and binoculars. Let me know what you find ( On my last trip out there, I saw two dead cows, lots of crab pot buoys, and a high quality raft.

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