Oil Spills


Oil spills are considerably large amounts of oil layers floating on a water body or covering a shoreline. Oil spills are generally a consequence of human activity resulting in the release of liquefied petroleum in the environment. Oil can also get released through natural seeps on the sea floor.

Major Oil Spills

Here are some examples of the major oil spills that have occurred:

  • Ekofisk blowout in the North Sea (1977): This blowout occurred at the B-14 production well while a tube was being pulled out from 10,000 feet below the ground. The disaster occurred due to an erroneously installed safety valve. The oil spills from the blowout were incontrollable and resulted in the loss of 81 million gallons of oil.
  • Amoco Cadiz spillage (1978): Amoco Cadiz, a very large crude carrier, encountered stormy weather in the English Channel while on its way to the Persian Gulf. The rudder of the ship was hit by a heavy wave. After around 12 hours, the ship hit the bottom. After the second grounding, the oil spillage began. Almost 68 million gallons of oil was lost.
  • Persian Gulf blowout (1983): The Nowruz oil field witnessed a blowout when an oil tanker collided with a platform. Intensive wave action destroyed the riser. Oil spills of 1,500 barrels per day were reported. The oil well remained uncapped, as it was located in the middle of the Iran/Iraq war zone. Iraqi planes attacked the oil well, causing massive fires. In September 1983, the well was finally capped by Iran, after a loss of 180 million gallons of oil.
  • Hebei Spirit oil spill (2007): In South Korea’s worst ever oil spill, crude oil carrier Hebei Spirit (carrying 260,000 tones) collided with a crane barge of Samsung Heavy Industries in the Yellow Sea. Three out of five tanks were punctured. As a result, 3.2 million gallons of oil were lost.

Oil Spills: Impact

Oils spills have various effects:

  • Oil penetrates the structure of the plumage of birds, opening it up. A decline in their insulation and flight abilities increases the vulnerability of birds.
  • Damage to marine habitats during clean up operations.
  • Oil emulsions resulting from the residue of spillage.