About this time last year, the "A Whale," a brand spanking new tanker, hastily modified to become a "super oil skimmer", had totally captivated me. With a great deal of media fan fare, the "A Whale," found itself steaming in test patterns on the Gulf of Mexico, attempting to siphon oil gushing from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Following her humiliating performance, she dropped off the front page and slipped quietly out of town. But I followed the "A Whale." And am I glad I did! She led us to Brazil to load her first revenue cargo of iron ore. That resulted in a four-part article on one of Brazil's premier Heavy Haul Corridor iron ore carriers, the Estrada de Ferro Carajas Railroad.
To this day, those four articles are still in the top five "What folks are reading" on this Blog, with more than 5,600 individual reads!
On this "anniversary," I was curious as to where she was a year after the fiasco on the Gulf of Mexico. So I retrieved the Global Positioning System records for the "A Whale." This is what I found.
Wow! What is this all about? Looks at first like the vessel is under control of a skipper under the influence!
This is the GPS track of her last 12 hours! Applying the scale in the bottom left corner, I reckoned her side-to-side excursion to be approximately 1,800 feet. Since there was no way she could be steaming in such a tight pattern, (the vessel is 1,115 feet long) I figured she must be swinging on an anchor.
She's been repeating this pattern for the past three days just off shore at Vadinar India. You may recall the "A Whale" is a special breed of vessel, designed in such a way that she can carry iron ore pellets, or crude oil. Hence her designation as a VLOO - Very Large Oil Ore carrier.
So next I set out to learn what was located at Vadinar India. Turns out Vadinar is the location of Essar Oil Refinery Limited, the second largest oil refinery in India, located adjacent to the largest oil refinery in the world, Reliance Petroleum Limited.
Vadinar was a sleepy fishing village located on the Gulf Of Kachchh. The Gulf of Kachchh, reaches eastward from the East Arabian Sea, some 110 miles (180 km.) The gulf varies in width from 10 to 40 miles (16 to 65 km). It is rimmed with mudflats. And many small islands arise from its waters.
This small village came into international maritime maps after the country's first single point mooring system was installed in 1978. The unloading buoy feeds the 1,870-kilometer (1,161 mile) Salaya-Mathura pipeline.
The Essar Petroleum complex, started in 1996 but wracked by problems, was finally completed and "on line" May 1st, 2008. In 2010, Essar refinery produced 14 mmtpa (million metric tons per anum), or 300,000 barrels per day of diesel, petrol, jet fuel, kerosene, fuel oil and bitumen.
In the United States and other countries, refinery output is measured in bbl's - barrels per day. India and many European countries measure their output in mmtpa - million metric tons per anum. The loose but simple rule of thumb for conversion is that a barrel a day is roughly 50 tonnes a year.
The Essar refinery in Vadinar has the tallest distillation tower in Asia, 97 meters (318 feet). The Vadinar refinery has successfully processed more than 32 varieties of crude from across world, including some of the "toughest crude's."
Essar will expand the refinery capacity threefold over the next few years, placing it among the five largest single-location refineries in the world.
This apparatus at Vadinar is correctly referred to as a CALM mooring, Catenary Anchor Leg Mooring system. The second mooring point at Vadinar, constructed by Valentine Maritime, Limited, is adjacent to the first SBM installed in 1978.
With the assistance of a tug, the tanker is secured to the buoy. Large diameter rubber hoses with mating plates are hoisted aboard the tanker and connected to the tankers main manifold.
Wind and tide move the assembly around, which accounts for strange GPS signature.
So! Once again, the "A Whale" has directed us to yet another interesting location!
[ 1. Footnote to the largest oil refineries in the world. Reliance, in India, produces 1.24 million barrels per day. The largest refinery in the USA ranks number six: ExxonMobile at Baytown, Texas, with a wimpy 572,500 barrels per day. Up in my neck of the woods, BP's Cherry Point, at Anacortes Washington, near the bottom of the list at 225,000 bbls/day.]
Single Buoy Mooring System for Handling Oil
Evolution of Offshore Loading Systems
Essar Oil Group
Gulf of Kachchh