Accident at the Port of Houston delays crude deliveries

By Phaedra Friend Troy

A tow vessel pushing barges plowed into a major electrical tower in the Port of Houston on Sunday, closing the major oil port for a number of days.

“The tow vessel Safety Quest, pushing three barges ahead all strung-out in a long string, ran into a tower supporting some high-voltage lines that run across the Houston Ship Channel,” said Cpt. Marcus Woodring of the US Coast Guard.

Owned by AEP, the tow vessel hit highline electrical tower 197 in Baytown. One of the barges is holding up the electrical tower.

“Fortunately for us, the power to those lines was secured at the time,” Cpt. Woodring said. “Center Point Energy was doing some maintenance on them. We did not know that at the time; so we evacuated the tug boat to make sure everybody on board would be safe.”

Stopping all in-bound and out-bound traffic, the US Coast Guard closed the Houston Ship Channel as crews from American Electric Power and CenterPoint Energy work to raise the electrical tower and power lines.

CenterPoint Energy contracted Big John Marine to stabilize the electrical tower, as well as remove some of the stress on the power lines. Once the structure is stable, CenterPoint will work to disconnect the power lines, reel them in and remove the damaged structure.

The US Coast Guard has established a security zone above and below the accident site, and the Houston Ship Channel is closed between markers 105 and 124, a four-mile stretch.

Deliveries to the port are stacking up quickly.

The back-up of vessels running shipments to the port is estimated to take a number of days to clear once the channel is reopened.

The price of crude on the NYMEX has been buoyed by this accident because shipments of oil to Gulf Coast refineries have been disrupted for a number of days.

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