Houston Ship Channel reopens after oil spill

HOUSTON — The U.S. Coast Guard is allowing limited use of the section of the Houston Ship Channel closed because of an oil spill, officials said Tuesday, easing worries about the threat to productivity of area refineries.

Commercial traffic bound for local ports had been at a standstill since Saturday, when a barge carrying heavy marine fuel oil collided with a ship and nearly 170,000 gallons of heavy oil spilled into the Galveston Bay. The closure raised concerns about the potential of widespread economic impact and financial effects on refineries that receive oil imports through the channel.

In an emailed statement Monday, Royal Dutch Shell spokeswoman Destin Singleton said the company is evaluating supply impacts on its refining and petrochemical complex near the Houston Ship Channel. She said Shell, based in The Hague, has contingency plans in place to deal with the closure if it becomes an issue.

Exxon Mobil Corp. said it had reduced production rates at its Baytown refining complex, the second-largest of its kind in the U.S. with a daily capacity of 584,000 barrels.

Representatives of Exxon and Shell said on Tuesday that they would provide no further comment, noting that the companies do not discuss production levels for competitive reasons. A representative at Valero also refused comment

Houston-based Phillips 66’s refinery complex 60 miles southwest of Houston gets most of its oil through waterways in Freeport. Phillips 66 spokesman Dean Acosta said on Monday the company doesn’t foresee the spill affecting that plant’s production.

Charter fishing businesses and individuals who have suffered property losses and other costs as a result of the March 22 collision near the Texas City Dike have filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Kirby Inland Marine and Cleopatra Shipping Agency.

Go to Chron.com for more of the latest news on the Galveston Bay oil spill.

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