GALVESTON, TEX., JUNE 14 -- Fire continued to burn in the pump room of the Norwegian tanker Mega Borg 57 miles offshore today, but the vessel did not appear in danger of sinking as authorities shifted their attention to cleanup and shore-protection efforts.
Since an explosion late Friday night, about 3 million gallons of light African crude have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, although most of it evaporated or burned away.
Wind and current are moving the estimated 12,000 gallons still in the water toward the northwest, where the sheen is 25 miles offshore, an advance of five miles since Wednesday.
Skimming efforts have removed 76,000 gallons from the water since Saturday, Coast Guard Capt. Tom Greene said. The ship holds about 38 million gallons of oil that could spill if it sinks.
Firefighters resumed spraying water on the stubborn pump-room blaze today after a protein-based foam used to smother the fire was sprayed on the overheated superstructure, trapping oxygen and causing a "reflash" ignition Wednesday. Foam applications are to resume when the ship cools.
Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro said today that a tar ball on a Galveston beach was traced to the 886-foot tanker.
On Friday, in an experimental process called bioremediation, scientists plan to deploy oil-eating microbes on two 100-foot areas of the sheen. Microbes, which occur naturally, break down oil and turn it into fatty acid.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which will use the Mega Borg experiment in evaluating the new technology, has approved the project.
"That's why we're doing this as an experiment" instead of a full-scale oil-cleanup effort "with proper controls and proper procedures so we can hold up those results and it will be credible once it's over with," said B.J. "Buck" Wynne III, chairman of the Texas Water Commission, which is overseeing the project.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian Maritime Directorate continued its inquiry into the incident, in which two crew members were killed, two are missing and 17 were injured. The panel heard from several crew members and C.M. Mahidhara, the ship's captain.
Putham Mahamood, a pumpman injured in the blast, said the explosion occurred as he was trying to open a valve for a crude oil washing. He did not describe on the procedure.
Earlier, Coast Guard inspector Richard Joseph Miles said the Mega Borg had passed inspection in April.
The hearings are to conclude Friday.