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Oil Spills

By: Sameer Patil

MIT Academy of Engineering

•Oil spills?
•Major oil spills
•Causes of oil spill
•Effect of oil spill
•Effect on marine habitat
•Ways to cleanup spill
•British Petroleum oil spill
Oil Spills??
• Oil spill is accidental or intentional release of liquid petroleum hydrocarbon
into oceans or coastal water due to human activity mainly.
• Oil spills may be due to releases of crude oil from tankers, offshore
platforms, drilling rigs and wells, spills of refined petroleum products (such
as gasoline, diesel) and their by-products.
• Oil spills can have disastrous consequences for society; economically,
environmentally, and socially.
• Cleanup and recovery from an oil spill is difficult and depends upon many
factors. It may takes weeks , months over even years.
Major Oil Spills
• Arabian Gulf Spills (1991)
Location – Persian Gulf
Cause – terminals and oil tankers destroyed
Quantity of oil spilled – 6 to 8 million barrels

• Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (1989)

Location – Alaskan waters
Cause – Ship wreckage
Quantity of oil spills – 260,000 barrels

• Gulf Oil Spill (2010)

Location - Gulf of Mexico
Cause - oil well below the gulf blew out
Quantity – 260 million gallons
Causes of oil spills
• Natural causes: Oil naturally spilled from bottom of ocean due to various factors (including
climatic conditions, disturbance, erosion of sedimentary rocks).
• Anthropogenic Causes: accidental oil spills
 Storage : Leakage of USTs and ASTs.
 Handling : transfer operations and uses.
 Transportation: big oil spills, through accidental rupture of big transporting vessels(e.g. tanker
ships or tanker trucks).
smaller oil spills, through pipelines.
 Offshore drilling : Massive oil spill in gulf of Mexico.
 Routine maintenance activities: Ship cleaning.
• Intentional causes:
 Through drains or in the sewer system: car oil change
 Illegal dumping by industries.
 Countries at war.
 Terrorist activities.
Effects of oil spills
• Effects entire marine life
• Blocks entrance of oxygen in water.
• Oil Spills Damage Beaches, Marshlands and Fragile Aquatic Ecosystems.
• Oil Spills Kill Birds.
• Oil Spills Kill Marine Mammals.
• Oil Spills Kill Fish.
• Oil Spills Destroy Wildlife Habitat and Breeding Grounds.
• Acid rain can be caused by oil spills.
Effects of Oil Spills on Marine Ecosystem
• Suffocation of aquatic life:
o Limits photosynthetic activity of marine animals and phytoplankton's.
o Oil spills reduce oxygen absorption of the water.
o Suspended oil can gain weight by bonding with minerals and settle on the
sea floor and harm the ecosystem there.

• Effects on Birds:
o The oil penetrates and opens up the structure of the plumage of birds.
o Reduces buoyancy , insulating ability and flying abilities.
Water poisoning:
o Animals and coastal plants that come in touch with high concentrations of oil die of
o Oil materials affect reproduction, growth and behavioural characteristics animals,
especially eggs and larvae.
o Humans and other animals living near the sea are also threatened.
o Naphthalene and Phenanthrene are more poisonous for fishes.
o Aromatic compound are more soluble in water therefore creatures may get
Poisoned by polluted water.
o Volatile in nature.
o Biomagnification: Concentration of swallowed chemicals increase through food
Effects on Mangroves
• Mangroves are one the essential habitats of coastal lines which is greatly
affected by water pollution.
• Importance:
o They are the biological filters of coastal regions.
o Preventing shores' erosion.
o Reduce impacts of floods and hurricanes.
o Place for most of the hatchlings growth.
• Effects:
o Pneumatophores are covered by oil, preventing the plants from "breathing"
o Oil will directly smooth and soften some parts of the roots, causing them to
suffocate .
o Reduction of light penetration and photosynthesis .
Methods for oil spill cleanup
• Appropriate method is used depending on the location of the spill, type of
oil, potential hazards, weather conditions, waves and currents.
• Oil Booms: Long, buoyant booms, which can be solid or inflatable tubes,
separate oil slick.
• Sorbents: Are sponges, suck and absorb the oil.
• Skimming: skimmers suck the oil into containment tanks on the shore or on
nearby vessels.
• This techniques are not suitable for high seas and in conditions of high
• Using dispersants to break down oil: Chemical dispersants used to break
down the oil and speed up its natural biodegradation.
• Dispersants can be harmful.
• Using Hot water and huge force: For shore cleaning.
• Burning In-situ: burning of the oil on the site where the spillage has
• Add biological agents to the spill: Biodegradation converts harmful
chemicals into harmless chemicals such as fatty acids and co2.
British Petroleum Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

• Deepwater explosion occur on 20 April 2010.

• Five million barrels of oil got spilled.
• The BP oil spill is the largest oil spill in marine waters.
• About 400 kilometres off the coast severely impacted.
• The scientists discovered oil plumes located from 35 kilometres to 1,066
kilometres below the surface of the Gulf.
• About 1.8 million gallons of dispersant used to cleanup spill.
• Used dispersant are Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527, can kill or affect the
growth of a wide variety of aquatic species.
Effects of Oil Spill
• Mass mortality of populations of animals, plants, microorganisms occurred.
• Tons of species are being affected by the spill out of which ten are in the verge of
extinction. Some of them include dolphins, pelicans, planktons, oysters etc.
• In the first six weeks after the explosion, around 491 birds, 227 turtles and 27
mammals, including dolphins, have been found dead along the US Gulf coast.
• Economy get largely affected.
• Conclusion:
• Sealing the oil well and preventing any further leak.
• Development of green ways for cleaning.
• Proper method should be used by considering all parameters.
Green Ways
• Utilize bacteria to eat up oil: Bioremediation

• Soak it up with hyper absorbent peat moss.

• Oil booms and skimmers.

• To generate and use super absorbing mats from pets hair.