The 10 worst oil spills

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The oil industry leads the world. Unfortunately, it also has a negative history of spills of thousands and even millions of barrels

The 10 worst oil spills

The oil industry had existed for a little more than 150 years, when oil deposits were discovered to the south of the US, then it expanded to the rest of the world and acquired great strength, especially in the 20th century when the modern world was made dependent (to this day) of the derivatives of this hydrocarbon.

Leer en español: Los 10 peores derrames petroleros

Not only is it one of the main industries with the highest revenues worldwide, but it is highly capital intensive, which means that its operations require a high level of technological development and complexity in its operations.

Additionally, the environmental impact generated by this industry is extremely high. When an accident occurs in any of the links of the value chain of this business, large levels of contamination occur in the affected areas.

Here we tell you the 10 worst spills of oil registered to date, to know the magnitude of the volumes discharged and the socio-environmental damages caused.

10. M / T Haven Tanker

On April 11, 1991, the tanker M / T Haven exploded on the coasts of Italy, literally splitting it into two parts and sinking 3 days after what happened. The explosion occurred while unloading fuel on an offshore platform near Genoa, causing the death of 6 crew members and spilling about 1 million barrels in the waters of the Mediterranean.

The estimated cost of the accident was of 85 million dollars and the affectation of the Mediterranean coasts of France and Italy for the following 12 years.

9. Odyssey

On November 10, 1988, more than 700 nautical miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, the US-owned oil platform Odyssey exploded causing the spill of approximately 1.02 million barrels that went directly to the ocean. Most of this volume was burned, which somewhat mitigated the impact on marine life. An estimated loss of 86.7 million dollars is estimated.

8. Amoco Cadiz

On the morning of March 16, 1978, the ultra long tanker (VLCC) was caught in a storm on the French coast of Portsall, subsequently running aground on sharp rocks, which led to the spill of 1, 6 million barrels.

Although the call for help made by the ship was addressed, efforts to prevent the sinking were in vain, killing millions of invertebrates, some 200,000 birds and contaminating the beds of oysters in the area. A loss is estimated in the order of 136 million dollars.

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7. Bellver Castle

A fire was responsible for the seventh worst spill in history. This occurred 70 miles northwest of Cape Town, in South Africa, specifically in the Bay of Saldanha. The stern of the ship sank, bringing with it 1.8 million barrels.

Although a significant portion of the oil was burned during the fire, most of it was released on the surface and subsequently captured before it dispersed, so that the environmental impact was minimized. However, the material losses amounted to approximately 153 million dollars.

6. Nowruz Oil Field

During the war between the two Iranian and Iranian oil powers, developed in the 1980s, an oil tanker collided with a platform causing the oil spill of 1.9 million barrels over the Persian Gulf.

Due to the warlike conflict, the spill could not be mitigated promptly causing approximately two-thirds of that volume to reach the seabed. A material loss of approximately 162 million dollars is estimated.

5. ABT Summer

At about 700 nautical miles off the coast of Angola in May 1991, the Liberian super tank ABT Summer suffered an explosion in which 5 crew members died and a subsequent fire that lasted for three days until it finally sank.

The efforts to contain the damage were sterile and 1.92 million barrels were spread over the ocean with material losses of 163 million dollars.

4. Fergana Valley

In the Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan, an area better known for its agricultural potential, than for its oil potential, the worst spill on land known to date occurred.

A fire that extended for more than two months due to the explosion of a good spill about 2.1 million barrels over the valley. It is estimated a monetary loss of 178 million dollars.

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3. Atlantic Empress and Aegean Captain

A collision between two tankers ranks third in the ranking. This is the collision that occurred on the coasts of Trinidad and Tobago in July 1979 due to a tropical storm that caused the accident between the Atlantic Empress and the Aegean Captain.

Both ships caught fire, but the first of these took the brunt of the fire for two weeks before sinking. The fire on the second ship was suffocated and taken ashore. 2.2 million barrels were discharged into the sea and material losses are estimated at the order of 187 million dollars.

2. Ixtoc 1

Instead of a tanker, the second worst disaster occurred at an offshore well in the Bay of Campeche that belonged to the Gulf of Mexico and was owned by the Mexican state-owned company PEMEX in June 1979. The explosion was due to a failure in the circulation of the drilling mud which resulted in an accumulation of oil and gas in the pipeline.

When the pressurized gases made contact with the engines on the surface, the fire started. 3.34 million barrels were spilled in the Gulf and estimates of material losses amounted to 284 million dollars.

1. Deepwater Horizon

Probably already many have seen the film starring Mark Wahlberg, where John Malkovich participates. It is the worst accident in oil history in the world. Unfortunately, on April 22, 2010, an offshore oil platform, also in the Gulf of Mexico but this time the part belonging to the US, was destroyed after an explosion that blinded the lives of 11 workers and spread almost 5 million barrels in the ocean.

BP, the company that exploited the well commercially, was judged as the main responsible and condemned to pay 65 billion dollars in compensation.

Why is not Exxon Valdez listed?

No of the most known oil accidents does not figure in the top 10 of the worst spills. This is the Exxon Valdez, a super tanker that belonged to the Exxon company (now merged with Mobil). Compared to the others on the list, it is far below in terms of volume, only 260,000 barrels produced by the spill.

However, the ecological impact caused on the marine and coastal life of Alaska sadly places it among the most memorable, being far superior to the rest in this line. It is estimated that he was responsible for the loss of 250,000 birds, 2,800 otters, 300 seals, 250 bald eagles, 22 killer whales and billions of salmon fish. Without a doubt, a true tragedy, or perhaps an ecological crime.

The worst spill was not an accident

We know that the oil industry has a huge complexity in its operations, which greatly increases the risks and the consequences on human beings and nature when an accident occurs, as we could see in this ranking. However, the worst spill in history was not an accident but the product of war.

When the Americans declare war on Iraq in the year 91, Iraqi troops intentionally opened valves and emptied oil tankers with the intention of hindering the US invasion through the Persian Gulf. It is estimated that about 10 million barrels were spilled and the losses amounted to 485 million dollars.


LatinAmerican Post | Luis Alberto Lozada

Trnslated from "Los 10 peores derrames petroleros"