Moscow River Set Ablaze


A break in an underwater fuel pipeline was blamed for a massive fire on the Moskva River in Moscow on Wednesday afternoon (Aug. 12), but the pipeline company’s investigations point elsewhere.

Thick Black Smoke in the Air

The fire on the Moskva River in southeast Moscow is believed to have been started when nearby grass caught fire and spread to a fuel oil slick on the water, Russian news agency TASS reported that day.

Social media outlets were filled with photos from city residents alarmed by the thick black smoke, said to rise 200 meters (656 feet) into the air. The size of the slick and the fire can be seen in amateur video footage posted to The Guardian.

Moscow deputy mayor Petr Biryukov told Russia Today that the fire stretched about 100 meters (328 feet) along the river and reached a depth of 1 meter (3.2 feet).

Birukov indicated three people – a mother, father and 9-year-old child from the same family – were injured in the fire and taken to a local hospital. Emergency crews extinguished the blaze in 15 minutes.

Where Did the Oil Come From?

The pipeline believed to be involved was reported to belong to state-owned pipeline company Transneft, who initially confirmed its involvement in the incident, but later disputed the same, according to The Huffington Post.

The underwater pipeline, which carries jet kerosene, gasoline and diesel to the Moscow Refinery, showed no damage in a subsequent inspection, according to Transneft.

Its Wednesday (Aug. 12) statement indicated: “No pressure drop had been recorded in the pipeline before an oil spill emerged. No oil product pipeline damage was discovered in the (Ring Oil Products Pipeline) preliminary inspection.”

In a Thursday (Aug. 13) press release, Transneft stated that the content of the oil products in the blaze did not match the fuel being pumped through the Transneft oil product pipeline system.

Russia Today

State-owned pipeline company Transneft traced the oil product to the rainwater collection system.

Rather, it reported, the fuel reached the water surface by way of the stormwater collection system, where oil products have been accumulating over time in the underground oil lenses. Their testing showed that the burned oil samples were an identical match to fuel found in the soil at the water collection point.

Heavy rains in the first part of the summer are believed to have washed out the oil product lenses.

Transneft also pointed out that the issue of oil products leaking into the rainwater collector and the Moskva River has been raised with local authorities, with a meeting on the subject being held as recently as June.

Current Status

As of Thursday (Aug. 13), the oil products released into the Moskva River had been stopped. Oil spill booms were placed on the site, and inspection and pressure testing of pipeline was completed.

The company resumed pumping the jet kerosene and was planning to begin transporting the diesel that same day. The gasoline product pipeline was slated to resume operation Friday (Aug. 14).


Tagged categories: Accidents; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Fire; Health & Safety; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Pipelines

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