A barge being loaded with heavy fuel oil at an Arco Petrochemical dock buckled Sunday, spewing at least 20,000 gallons of oil into the Houston Ship Channel, Coast Guard officials said.
"It's unusual in the way that it happened," said Coast Guard Senior Chief Dale Eichmann. "It was just sitting there at the dock and apparently, it just started buckling in half. The metal deck folded down on top of it and cracked it down the middle."
No. 6 fuel oil spilled from two center tanks as a crease cut across the barge at the dock.
Cleanup crews from Arco and Lyondell Petrochemical Co. were able to string containment booms around the area, Eichmann said, and a cleanup firm joined the effort. Lyondell is a former division of Atlantic Richfield Co.
The barge had been loaded with 630,000 gallons of oil, he said.
The Houston Ship Channel remains open, but Coast Guard officials warned ships to slow down.
The Coast Guard on Friday completed a two-week cleanup of a 700,000-gallon oil spill that occurred July 28.