Spilled fuel from Cosco Busan sent off for recycling

Trees will be pulped and ships will be repaired in the Pacific Northwest using some of the shipping fuel that wreaked environmental havoc when it spilled into the Bay from the damaged Cosco Busan in November.

Thousands of birds and a harbor seal were killed after 58,000 gallons of heavy fuel gushed from the 900-foot container ship when it hit a Bay Bridge tower on Nov. 7. Most of the spilled fuel sank, washed out to sea or evaporated, but around a third of it was recovered by volunteers and cleanup crews, according to U.S. Coast Guard figures.

A rail car filled with approximately 7,500 gallons of recovered fuel has arrived at Portland-based fuel recycler and ship repairer Cascade General, said general manager Alan Sprott. He said he expects another rail car of the recovered fuel mix to arrive soon.

“It comes to us in rail cars as an oil and water mix,” Sprott said. “We separate the oil from the water, then we basically dry the oil out to the point where it can be used as fuel. We blend it with other oils and then it’s sold.”

Roughly 70 percent of the

1 million gallons of fuel recycled yearly by Cascade General is sold to local companies “primarily in the pulp and paper industry,” and the rest is used to power the shipyard’s operations, Sprott said. The pulp and paper industry uses the fuel to create steam to turn trees into pulp, which is then turned into paper, according to Sprott.

The Cosco Busan fuel was sent to Oregon by Riverbank Oil Transfer, which paid Cascade General to recycle the fuel, according to Sprott.

The Riverbank-based company sends oil and fuel mixed with salt-water, such as water that collects at the bottom of ships and boats, to Cascade General, according to manager Bill Cundiff. Riverbank Oil Transfer also sends used oil from cars and other vehicles to a company in Nevada, according to Cundiff.

A private company linked to the cleanup efforts paid Riverbank Oil Transfer to take the mixture of salt-water and recovered Cosco Busan fuel off its hands, accordingto Cundiff.

“Who’s paying? I’m not sure,” Cundiff said. “There are many people involved in this process.”

Recovered shipping fuel is ideal for use in the paper and shipyard industries, according to Cundiff, because the low-grade fuel “can’t be reprocessed into anything else.”

jupton@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

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