Oil Spill – Ecological disaster

Oil spill

Oil Spill – Threat to environment


Oil Spill

  • Oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity.
  • Huge tankers or trucks can be a major cause of oil spill when transporting large volume of oil from one place to another.
  • Oil spill can happen either on land or on sea. Both forms of pollution can cause great damage to the environment in the form of air, land or water pollution.
  • When oil is spilled over the water, it creates a shiny substance on the surface of it that prevents marine animals to survive.
  • Oil spill can also caused by tectonic events.

Major causes of Oil spill:

  • Sinking or leakage of oil carrying vessels or pipelines
  • Illegal dumping by industries
  • During wars
  • Terrorist activities
  • Natural disasters

Effects of Oil spill:

  • Environmental Effects: Oil spill poses serious threats to fresh water and marine environments by affecting wide range of subsurface organisms that are linked in a complex food chain that includes human food resources. Spilled oil can harm the environment in several ways, including the physical damages that directly impact wildlife and their habitats, and the toxicity of the oil itself, which can poison exposed organisms.
  • Effect on Economy: One is precious oil cannot be used after spillage and another is the spending on cleaning the spilled oil.
  • Effect on Tourism Industry: The local tourism industry suffers a huge setback as most of the tourists stay away from such places. Dead birds, sticky oil and huge tarballs become common sight.


  • Engineering modifications of vessels and pipelines to reduce the risk and severity in case of accidental damages.
  • Safe shipping by adopting strict safety regulations.
  • Vessel traffic control system to prevent collision of vessels in more congested areas.

 Cleaning of oil spill:

  • Mechanical collection of oil from various methods such as by using oil skimmers, booms etc.
  • By using chemical dispersants to break down the oil
  • Adding biological agents to break down the oil through bio-degradation
  • Controlled burning of oil
  • By using sorbent materials to adsorb oil

Major Oil spills in history:

  • Deliberate dumping of oil to Persian gulf by Iraqi forces in 1991 Gulf War(Over 300 million gallons).
  • Drilling rig deep water horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010(around 200 million gallons).
  • Oil well – Ixtoc 1 explosion near Mexico coast in 1979(140 million gallons).
  • Collision of tankers near Trinidad & Tobago in 1979(87 million gallons).
  • Spanish tanker got fire off Cape Town in 1983(78 million gallons).

Bay of Bengal oil spill off Chennai port:

  • The ship BW Maple (UK flag), an LPG tanker, rams the petroleum tanker Dawn Kanchipuram (Indian flag), just two nautical miles off the Kamarajar Port at Ennore near Chennai on Jan 28.
  • The collision ruptures the water ballast tank and a part of fuel pipeline resulting in oil spillage to sea.
  • Reports by the Coast Guard have estimated that over 20 tonne of oil have spilled into the Bay of Bengal.
  • Oil spill affected the marine life of the coastal area especially sea turtle, fishing activity and Marina beach.
  • Coast guard and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board working on removal of oil spillage.