Tanker Collision Spills Massive Amounts of Deadly, Flammable Liquid in Houston's Galveston Bay

A tanker moving outbound through the Houston Shipping Channel collided with two barges Friday afternoon, spilling an enormous amount of a refined product into Galveston Bay and transmitting a strong gaseous odor that has permeated inland. The vessels were navigating the channel through heavy afternoon rains.

The liquid leaked into the bay is highly-flammable, toxic to marine life and could be deadly to anyone who ingests it.

The collision happened around 3:15 p.m. CT on Friday just east of Barbers Cut, click2Houston.com reported. The barges, each carrying 25,000 barrels of a gasoline-refining product called reformate, were traveling the inbound lane. One barge capsized and the other was badly damaged.

In addition to the chemical spill into the water, a strong odor has reached the western shore of both the Galveston and Trinity bays, and a faint odor has been detected as far west as Interstate-45.

Reformate, the liquid seeping into the waters, is highly toxic to marine animals and can be deadly if swallowed by humans. It is also highly flammable. Reformate is used to boost octane levels in commercially-sold gasoline.

As of 8 p.m. CT, the shipping channelwas closed from Light 61 to Light 75, KPRC reported.

Municipal officials inland began receiving reports of a strong gas odor early in the afternoon. The town of Seabrook said its volunteer fire department was dispatched to check out its community.

"We are receiving several reports about a petroleum smell coming from the Bay. The SVFD is investigating, however, we are receiving preliminary reports that the smell may be a result of barge accident in the Houston Ship Channel. We will be working to confirm this information," Seabrook officials tweeted.

Officials from League City, located 30 minutes south of Houston, said the odor was slightly noticeable but not enough to warrant any action from its residents.

"League City & Galveston Co are monitoring air quality after a ship collided with 2 barges in Houston Ship Channel, releasing thousands of barrels of gasoline product into the water. Residents may notice a 'gasoline' smell. At this time, residents do NOT need to take any action," the city tweeted.

Parts of the federally-owned shipping channel, which is the transitway for ships worldwide carrying crude oil and gas into Houston, remains closed.

No injuries have been reported from the incident.