UPDATE 6-Vital Houston oil tanker routes shut amid spill cleanup
* Coast Guard says no timeline for reopening Houston Channel
* Exxon: Channel closure has not affected Baytown refinery
* Second barge collision on Houston Channel this month (Updates with notice to mariners on length of closure, birds affected)
By Terry Wade
TEXAS CITY, Texas, March 24 (Reuters) - The closure of major Texas shipping channels that deliver crude to more than a tenth of the nation's refining capacity was set to run into a third day and could continue through the week as crews were still working on Sunday night to clean up after an oil spill.
The Houston Ship Channel, which allows oil barges and cargo ships to sail from the Gulf Coast to refiners and terminals further inland, was shut on Saturday following a collision between a Kirby Inland Marine oil barge and a cargo ship, spilling some 4,000 barrels, or 168,000 gallons (636,000 liters), of residual fuel oil.
A warning to mariners issued by the U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday said portions of the Houston Ship Channel and its offshoots to Texas City and Galveston, Texas, along with a portion of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway could be shut through Saturday March 29 or longer depending on the requirements of the cleanup. Kirby Inland Marine is operated by Kirby Corp.
There were signs of progress on Sunday. Coast Guard Capt. Brian Penoyer said cleanup crews have pumped all remaining fuel oil from the barge, which is partially sunken near the entrance to the channel. The barge has been refloated and moved to a different position near the site of the collision in the channel.
The channel will remain shut "until clean water is assured," Penoyer told reporters at a news conference in Texas City. Continuación...