Unlike crude oil, condensate does not clump into black globules that can be easily seen or produce heart-wrenching images of birds tarred muck
A fiery collision that sank an Iranian tanker in the East China Sea a month ago has resulted in an environmental threat that experts say is unlike any before: an almost invisible type of petroleum has begun to contaminate some of the most important fishing grounds in Asia, from China to Japan and beyond.
It is the largest oil spill in decades, but the disaster has unfolded outside the glare of international attention that big spills have previously attracted. That is because of its remote location on the high seas and also the type of petroleum involved: condensate, a toxic, liquid bi-product of natural gas production.
Unlike the crude oil in better-known disasters like the Exxon Valdez and the Deepwater Horizon, condensate does not clump into black globules that can be easily spotted or produce heart-wrenching images of animals mired in muck. There’s no visible slick that can be pumped out. Experts say the only real solution is to let it evaporate or dissolve. Absorbed into the water, it will remain toxic for a time, though it will also disperse more quickly into the ocean than crude oil.
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