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Patriots Point pumping 60,000 gallons of fuel out of Yorktown

Hospitality and Tourism
Ashley Heffernan
  • Ashley Heffernan
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When the Navy gave the decommissioned USS Yorktown to the state of South Carolina in 1975, the aircraft carrier arrived at Patriots Point with more than 160,000 gallons of fuel onboard in 129 tanks.

Now, more than four decades later, 60,000 gallons of that fuel and other hazardous liquid is being removed. Patriots Point has contracted with AAA Utility and Construction to remove the fuel for $132,000, Director of Operations Bob Howard said. The funding for the project is coming from Patriots Point's reserve account.

"The last time this ship would have taken on fuel for any reason would have been in 1970," Howard said.

Bob Carroll with Moran Environmental Recovery holds back a grate for hoses leading into one of the Yorktown's fuel storage tanks. (Photo/Ashley Heffernan)In addition to fuel, the tanks include ballast water that was added to help the Yorktown settle into its current mooring location. The water, mixed with oil residue, is considered hazardous waste and must be separated from the fuel.

GEL Engineering is managing the removal, and crews from Moran Environmental Recovery are vacuuming the fuel from the tanks in a 52-foot section of the ship located below the fourth deck near the bow.

The fuel goes through a 400-foot hose to a truck on the Patriots Point pier. Once full, the truck takes the fuel to tanks near Patriots Point, which are driven to a facility in Jacksonville, Fla. At that facility, the oil and water is separated, treated and recycled, said Moran project manager Bob Carroll.

The crews can remove between 10,000 and 14,000 gallons per day, Carroll said. After the fuel is removed from a tank, crews power wash the tanks using 165-degree water.

Howard said the remaining 100,000 gallons will likely be removed in the next two or three years depending on Patriots Point’s budget.

"We have a long, long way to go on the entire project, but you've got to start somewhere, and we have officially begun," Howard said.

Collins Engineering conducted a structural assessment of the Yorktown in 2015, finding that the ship poses no immediate risk to the environment but that its hull needs about $40 million in repairs that will take place over the next 25 years. Before the metal hull can be repaired, the flammable fuel must be removed.

“Before we can tackle the larger projects called for in the 2015 structural assessment of the ship, we have to remove that fuel and oily water mixtures that have been found onboard,” Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette said in a news release. “Foremost in our mind is the removal of this hazardous fuel so that an accidental puncture or leak can never threaten Charleston Harbor.”

While the work is being done, the Yorktown will remain open to the public.

Reach Ashley Heffernan at 843-849-3144.

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April 12, 2017

It's too late to do it now but at some point, someone could have made a calculation of the financial value of the fuel/oil mix and at what oil price would it be reasonable to expect that this would be removed for free. Then wait for the price of oil to hit break even and auction off the mix. What is a cost center, could have been removed at a lower cost, or even a modest profit that could be plowed back into improving operations.

April 12, 2017

Yes - that's 160,000 gallons of the little-used (anymore) NSFO "Navy Special Fuel Oil", possibly Av-Gas and Jet Fuel as well. The NSFO normally has to be heated to move it through a hose or pipe, and we naval old-timers considered it a good vehicle for asphalt manufacture. Can we get it back from FL after it's separated and make it part of the highway repair/improvement package for the state?