Murphy Oil USA refinery spill

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Murphy Oil USA refinery spill
Murphy Oil Meraux Tank Breech.jpg
The rupture in the tank can clearly be seen in this EPA photograph.
Location Chalmette- and Meraux, Louisiana
Coordinates 29°55′51″N 89°57′35″W / 29.93092°N 89.95979°W / 29.93092; -89.95979Coordinates: 29°55′51″N 89°57′35″W / 29.93092°N 89.95979°W / 29.93092; -89.95979
Date August 30, 2005
Cause Storage tank breach
Operator Murphy Oil USA
Spill characteristics
Volume 25,110 barrels (3,992 m3)

The Murphy Oil USA refinery spill is a spill that resulted from the failure of a storage tank at the Murphy Oil USA refinery and spoiled the flood-waters following the levee breaks of Hurricane Katrina in residential areas of Chalmette- and Meraux, Louisiana.

According to US Coast Guard there were about 44 oil spills in the area affected by Hurricane Katrina. Most of these occurred in areas of Plaquemines Parish which do not have large populations. This spill is the exception.

On August 30, 2005, the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina caused massive failure along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet levee and inundated St. Bernard Parish 4 to 14 feet (4.3 m) of water. Murphy Oil refinery was under 6–18 feet of water. A 250,000-barrel (40,000 m3) above-ground storage tank was dislodged, lifted and damaged in flooding associated. The tank contained 65,000 barrels (10,300 m3) of mixed crude oil, and released approximately 25,110 barrels (1,050,000 gallons). The pressure from the flood waters kept the water inside of the tank until the waters had receded to about 4 feet (1.2 m), five days after the storm had passed. As the oil released it flowed along with the flood waters from east to west. The released oil impacted approximately 1,700 homes in an adjacent residential neighborhoods of Chalmette; an area of about one square mile. Several canals have also been impacted: the 20 Arpent Canal; the 40 Arpent Canal; the Meraux Canal; the Corinne Canal; the DeLaRonde Canal; and, various unnamed interceptor canals.


Contractor hosing down the sides of a canal in Chalmette to remove oil

Major industries in St. Bernard Parish, including the two oil refineries, had disaster mitigations plans that were filed with the local government. However, the local government lost most of its files in the flood that followed the levee failure.

Employees of oil refineries in the disaster area have stated on online forums that their refineries filled tanks with water in order to prevent them from floating away. However, typical pre-Katrina industry standards on the Gulf Coast were based on a heavy rain event, and did not anticipate a full inundation of water around the storage tanks.

Another refinery employee commented that these large oil storage tanks are sometimes purposely floated in order to move them. The containment levees around the tank are generally filled with water and tanks are moved in this way around tank farms. This is done on a planned basis with all oil removed from the tank being moved.

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