• As many as 250,000 gallons released in tug-barge collision
  • Barge traffic for grain, commodities closed for several days

A tug boat and barge collision on the Mississippi River caused the spill of as many as 250,000 gallons of oil slurry, a refining byproduct, and closed traffic for shipments of grain and other commodities near Paducah, Kentucky.

The U.S. Coast Guard was working with barge owner Inland Marine Services and halted river traffic to all vessels except those involved in the cleanup, said Petty Officer Lora Ratliff, a guard spokeswoman.

There was no estimate for when the area of Wednesday’s collision will reopen, she said. More than 15 vessels were waiting for traffic to resume.

“There may be a two- to three-day crunch, but inside of a week, we will be back to business as usual,” Greg Ginder, a risk-management consultant at FCStone in St. Louis, said in a telephone interview.

The U.S. grain harvest is ramping up in southern areas where supplies are shipped to New Orleans.

“Southbound barge traffic stopped for 72 hours would not make a big dislocation in supplies,” Ginder said. “Most grain companies have stocks on hand to handle short-term disruptions.”

Valero Energy Corp.’s Memphis refinery, the nearest to the river closure, sends most of its oil products out by truck and some by barge, spokesman Bill Day said Thursday in a phone Interview. In the event of a disruption to river traffic, Valero could move it by truck, he said.

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