Tug call outs
Oil transfers over Washington waters*
(*regulated transfers over water)
Percent of transfers (2012 - present)
2.5% - 10%
10% - 25%
25% - 40%
Show oil type
Chart changes through time >
What is this information telling us?
Businesses ranging from refineries to marinas with fuel docks, and large tanker ships to tour boats, transfer oil over water. The activity is regulated to help prevent oil spills.
Historically, large oil transfers contributed to the majority of spills by volume in state waters. In 2004 Ecology adopted a “zero spills to water” goal and began regulating oil transfers. Currently, spills from regulated oil transfers contributes to less than 1% annually of spills into Washington waters.
Operators are required to notify Ecology of oil transfer activities through the Advanced Notice of Transfers (ANT) system. Ecology uses this information to regularly inspect transfer activities and track the number of oil transfers occurring over time. ANT does not include information on oil transfers from pipelines.
Estimated crude oil movement by rail in Washington
Estimated rail tank cars per quarter
1,000 or less rail tank cars
1,001 - 10,000
10,001 - 15,000
15,001 - 20,000
More than 20,000 rail tank cars
The number of cars per train can vary from 90 to 120. The approximate volume for a rail tank car is 680 barrels, with 42 gallons in a barrel.
Washington State facilities receiving crude oil via railroad are required to submit advance notice information for all scheduled crude oil deliveries to be received by the facility. This map shows summarized information from Ecology’s quarterly report issued per WAC 173-185-100.
Rail tank car estimates by county are based on the volume of crude oil deliveries scheduled to be received by facilities in Washington. This estimate does not include crude oil that is transiting though Washington State, information on empty cars or refined products carried by rail within Washington State. Information reported for the Columbia River corridor counties (Clark, Skamania, Klickitat & Benton) may contain cars transporting oil through Washington State or Oregon State. Ecology cannot and does not warrant the accuracy of this data (map) as data is provided by facilities receiving crude oil from railroad cars.
Neah Bay tug (ERTV*)
*ERTV - Emergency response towing vessel
Importance of the ERTV
To help protect Washington’s shorelines and waterways, the Washington state maritime industry has permanently stationed an emergency response towing vessel in Neah Bay. The tug is an important safety net to prevent disabled ships and barges from grounding off the outer coast or in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca - one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. An oil spill in this area would pose a substantial threat to Puget Sound’s environment, economy, and culture.
The tug assists vessel that are disabled or have maneuvering problems. Ships requiring assistance include cargo vessels, large fishing and fish processing vessels, fully laden oil and chemical tank ships, and tugs with tank barges in tow. Since 1999 tug assistance has prevented millions of gallons of oil from spilling into Washington waters.
Funding for the tug is managed by the Marine Exchange of Puget Sound, an association that provides communications and information services to its members and to government agencies.
Spill quantity (gallons)
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Reported spills to water
If you see a spill in water, immediately call 1-800-OILS-911 and 1-800-424-8802. All oil spills cause environmental damage, regardless of size. Oil is toxic to the environment and the damage starts as soon as the oil hits water. A single quart of oil has the potential to foul more than 100,000 gallons of water.
In 2011, a Puget Sound Toxics Assessment study estimated that approximately 230 tons of petroleum products are spilled annually in the 12 counties that border Puget Sound. The sooner Ecology knows about a spill - the quicker a team can launch a rapid, aggressive and well-coordinated response.
Unfortunately, most spills are unreported. Ecology receives roughly 4,000 reports of oil and hazardous materials spills each year. All reports are tracked to completion – which results in about 1,200 yearly field responses.
Calling to report spills is critically important for protecting the environment, public health, and economies that depend on clean water. Help Ecology protect the state.
Restoration projects funded through natural resource damage assessments (NRDA)
Coastal protection fund
Direct restoration project
After a spill the responsible party is liable for environmental damages to public resources, such as aquatic habitats, beaches, parks, and water quality. The monetary assessment paid by a spiller is deposited into the state’s coastal protection fund (CPF). A committee of representatives from various state agencies decide how the money is spent - usually selecting resource restoration or enhancement projects in areas affected by the spill.
Direct restoration projects are those funded directly by the responsible party.
Impacts to the environment
When oil spills into the environment, living creatures, called organisms, and their habitats are injured. Organisms include plankton, plants, invertebrates, fish, birds, and mammals. They live in habitats that include the water column, sediments, beaches, wetlands, and forests. Oil’s impact depends on many things including the life stage of the organism (egg, larvae, juvenile, adult), the time of year (wet or dry season), and other disturbances such as the presence of invasive species and the chronic effects of oil spilled.
Liquid petroleum pipelines in Washington state
Transporting oil through pipelines
Washington has hundreds of miles of pipelines transporting oil through the state. The longest is the BP Olympic pipeline that spans 400 miles from Blaine, Washington to Portland, Oregon. In 2014 pipelines moved over 7.4 billion gallons - placing pipelines as the primary mode of oil transportation in Washington state.
Spills Program regulated facilities
Large facilities such as refineries, refueling terminals, and pipelines
Facilities that transfer oil to non-recreational vessels with a fuel capacity greater than 10,500 gallons
Marinas and other facilities that transfer oil to non-recreation vessels with a fuel capacity of less than 10,500 gallons
What does regulated mean?
Ecology regulates the equipment and oil transfer, storage, and handling at facilities to ensure environmental and public health. Each facility has different types of requirements, depending on their classification, but all are required to have some type of spill prevention plan. By ensuring regulated facilities are trained to prevent, prepare for, and respond to spills when they occur, we further our goal of zero spills to Washington waters.
Locations of oil spill response equipment
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Oil spill response readiness
Ecology strives for a rapid, aggressive and well-coordinated response to all oil spills. Our ability to respond quickly depends on timely access to oil spill response equipment. This map shows the locations of different response equipment maintained by private and public response organizations in the Pacific Northwest. This equipment is also listed on the Western Response Resource List (WRRL) - a database that stores data on oil spill response equipment in the Pacific Northwest.
Oil spill planners and responders use this information to:
Statewide response plans
Geographic response plans have been created to guide the response and protection of valuable areas in case of a spill.
What is a geographic response plan?
Geographic response plans (GRP) are written for specific areas, such as a river, a lake, or section of Puget Sound, that include oil-spill response strategies tailored to local shorelines or waterways. GRPs contain maps, descriptions, and strategies to reduce injury to sensitive natural, cultural, and economic resources. They also set priorities for various spill risks from vessels, trains and facilities, and direct the response until real-time information becomes available.