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Project Recovering Oil From Shipwreck

June 06, 2004|From Associated Press

MADRID — The first 79,000 gallons of oil from a tanker that sank in the Atlantic off northwestern Spain in 2002 have been successfully extracted, officials said Saturday.

The project is considered one of the most difficult oil cleanup operations ever attempted because the tanker, the Prestige, is resting 2 1/2 miles below the surface.

Spanish oil company Repsol YPF developed a pioneering technique that involved drilling small holes in the wreckage and allowing the oil, which is less dense than seawater, to float out of the hold and into giant bags. The bags take it to the surface for recovery.

Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said that the extraction work started Thursday and that the first bag of oil from the bow area was brought to the surface early Saturday.

The extraction project is expected to take months and cost $122 million.

The Prestige snapped in half during a storm off the Galician coast Nov. 19, 2002, disgorging most of its 20 million gallons of thick, toxic fuel oil onto the beaches of northern Spain and southwestern France in what was Spain's worst environmental disaster.

Nearly 3.7 million gallons of oil remain inside the two pieces of the ship, according to the Spanish government.

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