The Mississippi River
was shut to all vessels Tuesday night after the Westchester, a 13,000-barrel crude oil spill near the mouth of the river some 60 miles south of New Orleans, the U.S. Coast Guard said
. A Bahamian-flagged crude oil tanker ran aground near the mouth of the river close to Venice, La., around 6 p.m. CST Tuesday, Nov. 28, and spilled about 13,000 barrels of Nigerian sweet crude oil, said Petty Officer Joe Patton
. The river had been shut between mile markers 9 and 38 (a nearly 30-mile stretch), Patton said. The Coast Guard and other federal agencies are assessing the extent of the spill. Containment booms and about 30 vessels are involved in the clean-up, Patton said.
Refineries were reportedly unaffected, as the cargo was destined for a pipeline terminal.
"It was not going to a refinery...it was going upriver to a pipeline," Greg Beuerman, spokesman for Maritime Oil Trader 3, a Greek-based company that was transporting the cargo. The tanker was heading to Equilon's St James, La. pipeline facility, he said.
Oil major Exxon Mobil Corp., who operates two refineries along the lower Mississippi with nearly 670,000 bpd of capacity in Chalmette and Baton Rouge said the company does not anticipate any production problems resulting from the shutdown.
Orion Refining Corp. said the shutdown of the Mississippi River was "not yet having any effect" on runs at its 155,000 bpd plant at Norco.
"Whether it will eventually depends on how long the river is down," said an Orion spokeswoman, who said the refinery is currently running normally. There was no immediate word on how long the river will be shut, the Coast Guard office in New Orleans said.