Quantcast

Fears of Environmental Disaster After Oil Tanker Collision

The oil tanker that set fire after colliding with a freight ship off the east coast of China may explode and sink, possibly putting the environment and human health at risk, experts warned.

The Iranian tanker was carrying 150,000 tons, or nearly 1 million barrels, of condensate crude oil when it collided with the CF Crystal on Saturday. Condensate is an ultra-light hydrocarbon that is highly toxic and much more explosive than regular crude oil.


The size of the oil spill from the ship and the extent of the environmental harm are currently unknown but the disaster has the potential to be the worst since the ABT Summer spill off the Angolan coast in 1991, Reuters noted.

Chinese authorities have since dispatched three cleaning boats to the site. Search and rescue are also underway for the 32 crew members that have gone missing after the collision in the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta.

"First and foremost, Greenpeace hopes that the search and rescue operations of the Chinese coast guard go smoothly and the 32 missing crew will be found," said Greenpeace East Asia campaigner Rashid Kang.

But the environmental organization is also concerned about the potential environmental damage that could be caused by the release of the oil on board.

"We are worried about the potential environmental impact that could be caused by leakage from the vessel that was holding almost 42 million gallons of crude oil. A clean up procedure is already underway and we will be monitoring its progress," Kang said.

As the BBC reported, condensate is both color- and odor-less, making it hard to detect, contain and clean up compared to heavy crudes.

Additionally, condensate is "not like crude, which does break down under natural microbial action; this stuff actually kills the microbes that break the oil down," Simon Boxall, of the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton, explained to the news service.

Boxall said the best hope was to put out the fire and stop the ship from sinking.

"If she sinks with a lot of cargo intact, then you have a time bomb on the sea bed which will slowly release the condensate," he said.

"There could be a long-term exclusion of fishing for many hundreds of kilometers in this area," Boxall added.

Babatunde Anifowose, a senior lecturer in petroleum and environmental technology at the University of Coventry told CNN that if the tanker explodes and sinks, cleanup will be made much more difficult due to the oil seeping beneath the surface of the water.

Anifowose also noted that the toxic fumes released by condensate could could be picked up by winds and carried onto nearby onshore populations.

The fumes "could aggravate existing health conditions or lead to coughing or asthma," Anifowose said.

But Mu Jianxin, a senior engineer at the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, told the Global Times that the oil is soluble in water, making it easier to handle.

“Pollution caused by the leak is certain, but compared to the wide watershed of the Yangtze River estuary, the 136,000 tons of oil should not cause too serious a problem," Mu said.

“Some physical methods can be used to dissolve or neutralize the oily pollutant."

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

By Kate Murphy

No matter the time of year, there's always a point in each season when my skin decides to cause me issues. While these skin issues can vary, I find the most common issues to be dryness, acne and redness.

Read More Show Less

David Woodfall / The Image Bank / Getty Images

By Sam Nickerson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April 2018 proposed relaxing standards related to how it assesses the effects of exposure to low levels of toxic chemicals on public health.

Now, correspondence obtained by the LA Times revealed just how deeply involved industry lobbyists and a controversial, industry-funded toxicologist were in drafting the federal agency's proposal to scrap its current, protective approach to regulating toxin exposure.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Steve Irwin poses with a three foot long alligator at the San Francisco Zoo on June 26, 2002. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

February 22 is the birthday of conservationist and beloved TV personality "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, who would have been 57 years old today.

Irwin's life was tragically cut short when the barb from a stingray went through his chest while he was filming in 2006, but his legacy of loving and protecting wildlife lives on, most recently in a Google Doodle today honoring his birthday.

Read More Show Less
Left: Youtube / Screenshot, Right: alle12 / Getty Images

By Dan Nosowitz

That video showed the extrusion of a bubblegum-pink substance oozing into a coiled pile, something between Play-Doh, sausage, and soft-serve strawberry ice cream. Branded "pink slime"—the name came from an email sent by a USDA microbiologist in 2002—this stuff was actually beef, destined for supermarkets and fast-food burgers.

Read More Show Less
Climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses the European Commission on Feb. 21 in Brussels, Belgium. Sylvain Lefevre / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Sixteen-year-old climate action leader Greta Thunberg stood alongside European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Thursday in Brussels as he indicated—after weeks of climate strikes around the world inspired by the Swedish teenager—that the European Union has heard the demands of young people and pledged more than $1 trillion over the next seven years to address the crisis of a rapidly heating planet.

In the financial period beginning in 2021, Juncker said, the EU will devote a quarter of its budget to solving the crisis.

Read More Show Less