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Oil Tanker Ruptures, Catches Fire Off China

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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An oil tanker that was damaged in a collision Saturday (Jan. 6) in the East China Sea remained ablaze Tuesday amid rain and dangerous waves as speculation mounted as to the incident’s ultimate environmental impact.

The Sanchi, a tanker registered in Panama but operated by an Iranian oil-transport company, was reportedly carrying nearly 1 million barrels of condensate, an ultra-light form of crude that exists in the ground as a gas and is captured as a liquid upon extraction. The light and volatile nature of the condensate is at the heart of the discussion as to what the long-term effects of the incident might be.

The tanker is located east of Shanghai and south of the Korean Peninsula.

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Condensate is especially explosive in comparison with traditional crude, leading some to worry that an explosion could be imminent aboard the vessel. On the other hand, Reuters reports, China officials have said the ultra-light nature of the condensate means that most of it is evaporating or burning rather than creating an oil slick as is typical in crude spills.

By the same token, the condensate’s lack of density means it is harder to isolate and clean up in comparison with heavier crude.

The Sanchi collided late Saturday with the Crystal, a bulk freighter reportedly carrying grain from the U.S. All 21 Crystal crew members, Chinese nationals, were rescued, according to the AP; 31 of the 32 Sanchi crew members, mostly from Iran, were unaccounted for as of Tuesday. One body had been recovered.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Oil and Gas; Ships and vessels

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