Oil Pollution in Earth's Waters

What is it all about?

Major Sources of Oil Pollution in Waters Worldwide

1. Spills from oil tankers. For example, a ship spills 10 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean and it spreads across the surface of the ocean and coastline, killing thousands of seabirds and other marine animals.

2. Offshore drilling. There are approx. 5,000 offshore oil platforms, just in North America. Drilling platforms commonly experience leaks; roughly 322,000 pounds per year, in North American waters, and 0.6-3.1 million pounds per year, in foreign oil platforms.

3. Can occur naturally. U.S. Natural Academy of Sciences estimated the natural releases of oil from seeps in the bottom of the ocean account for 60% of all oil in the waters surrounding North America and 45% of all oil in waters worldwide.

Just Suck it Up!

A current method of remediation, containment, occurs by laying out oil containment booms. The containment consists of plastic barriers (booms) that trap the oils floating on the surface. The barriers extend down into the water for several meters. Once the oil on the surface is within the barriers, boats (skimmers) equipped with ginormous vacuums suck up as much oil as possible. In shallow areas and near coastlines, absorbent materials act like sponges and suck up the spilled oils.

Deepwater Horizon

Case Study

On April 20, 2010, the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, operating in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded and sank. This resulted in the death of 11 workers and the largest spill of oil in the history of oil drilling operations. 4 million barrels of oil flowed (130L per second) from the damaged rig, over an 87-day period, before it was stopped. The United States filed a complaint against BP Exploration & Production and several other defendants alleged to be responsible for the spill. BP's oil is scattered in patches across 1,200 square miles of the seafloor. There is no longer any toxicity and it is not a threat to human or aquatic life.
Deepwater Horizon (2016) Official Movie Trailer – ‘Heroes’