Alaska shipwreck yields long-lost oil

Alaska shipwreck yields long-lost oil

From Green Right Now Reports The Princess Kathleen ran aground at Lena Point, Sept. 7, 1952. Photo: Alaska State Library - Historical Collections A sunken passenger ship that wrecked in...

From Green Right Now Reports

The Princess Kathleen ran aground at Lena Point, Sept. 7, 1952. Photo: Alaska State Library - Historical Collections

The Princess Kathleen ran aground at Lena Point, Sept. 7, 1952. Photo: Alaska State Library - Historical Collections

A sunken passenger ship that wrecked in Alaska nearly six decades ago is becoming a novel source for fuel oil – albeit a high-maintenance one.

The Princess Kathleen ran aground on Point Lena, north of Juneau, on Sept. 7, 1952 en route from Juneau to Skagway, Alaska. Now, a plan to vacuum oil trapped within the vessel could salvage 34,000 gallons or more. The removal process began April 17.

Already, divers have estimated the presence of between 14,000 and 34,000 gallons of heavy bunker oil in 10 tanks. Four more tanks will be assessed after enough silt is removed to allow access. The vessel is set at an angle on its port side, its depth ranging from 52 feet at the bow to 134 feet at the stern.

Since the ship sank, occasional fuel spills and oil sheens have plagued the nearby area. Officials with the Unified Command comprised of the Coast Guard and State of Alaska decided to explore ways of recapturing the rest of the oil before the leaks worsened or the ship broke up completely.

Global Diving & Salvage, Inc., will attempt to remove the oil using a method called “hot-tapping.” The thick, heavy bunker oil will be warmed by a hot water heat exchanger, allowing the oil to be suctioned out through a hose and pumped to a barge above. The Southeast Alaska Petroleum Resource Organization will have oil recovery vessels on hand during the fuel recovery operations.

In addition to the oil in the starboard and port tanks, Global estimates that between 1,500 and 3,000 gallons is trapped within the structure of the vessel. Divers have installed temporary patches over exposed portholes to keep this oil from escaping and will use suction wands to remove the oil.


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