May 19, 2009 / 5:37 PM / 10 years ago

Part of Mississippi shut, Valero's Memphis plant ok

HOUSTON, May 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Coast Guard closed the Mississippi River south of Memphis, Tennessee, on Tuesday after a vessel collision, but Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N) said its refinery in Memphis was unlikely to be affected.

“It would have to be a lengthy closure,” said Valero spokesman Bill Day.

The Coast Guard said most of 26 barges set adrift by the collision of two towboats were recovered by midday Tuesday, except one that may have sunk. Survey of the navigational channel was underway to make sure it would be safe to reopen.

Valero’s 195,000 barrel per day refinery at Memphis receives crude oil by pipeline, so its feedstock supply would not be affected by shutdown of the river, Day said.

The plant ships some products by barge on the river, but most of its output travels by truck, Day said.

The Coast Guard said that vessel traffic was halted between Mile Marker 595 (958 km) and Mile Marker 640 (1,030 km) as a result of a towing vessel collision near Helena, Arkansas, early Tuesday.

Memphis is at Mile Marker 736 (1,184 km), nearly 100 miles (161 km) north of the accident scene, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said. Mile Marker zero for the lower Mississippi River is at its mouth on the Gulf of Mexico.

The collision involved the towboats Golden Eagle and Mary Ann. There were no reports of injuries or pollution but investigation continues, the news release said.

One barge may have sunk near Mile Marker 640, the Coast Guard said. (Reporting by Bruce Nichols; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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