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1993 Spill Off Tampa Bay, a Candidate for Burning?

pdf icon 1993 Spill Off Tampa Bay, a Candidate for Burning? (862 K)
LaBelle, R. P.; Galt, J. A.; Tennyson, E. J.; McGrattan, K. B.

NIST SP 995; Volume 2; March 2003.

Environment Canada. Arctic and Marine Oil Spill Program (AMOP) Technical Seminar, 17th Proceedings. Volume 1. June 8-10, 1994, Vancouver, British Columbia, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, 635-649 pp, 1994.


oil spills; in situ combustion; fire plumes; sand


On August 10, 1993, the Tank Barge Ocean 255 and the Tank Barge Bouchard B-155 collided with the freighter Balsa 37 near the entrance of Tampa Bay, Florida. Jet fuel from the Ocean 255 caught fire and burned for approximately 18 hours. Barge B-155, carrying 5 million gallons of No. 6 fuel oil, ruptured a port tank and spilled an estimated 328,000 gallons. Much of the discharged oil was initially carried offshore by winds and tidal currents and moved northward, parallel to the adjacent barrier island beaches. By August 14 and 15, a storm system bringing winds from the west pushed oil onshore onto several beaches and into and through tidal inlets. Subsequent oiling of sand beaches, shallow embayments, and fringing wetlands occurred during the second week of the spill event. Estimates are that about 14.5 miles of sand beaches were oiled, along with approximately 6 acres of mangrove wetlands, 2.5 acres of seagrass beds, and 1.5 acres of saltmarshes. Areas of submerged oil were also present in bays and bay passes. This paper outlines the general behavior and movements of the spilled oil and the sea and weather conditions prevalent before the oil moved ashore. The possibility of removing portions of the spill by ignition and combustion is discussed, and results of smoke plume model runs are presented. Given the highly successful in-situ test burning of spills off Newfoundland in August 1993, this response measure deserves serious evaluation in future emergencies. Presently, spill responders must consider both actual and publicly perceived hazards associated with the at-sea burning of oil.