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Key facts about oil spills

Key facts about oil spills

Rescue workers battled on Wednesday to stop an oil spill from further polluting the central Philippine coastline as Lebanon began mopping up thousands of tonnes of oil that spilled into the Mediterranean Sea when Israel bombed a power plant over a month ago.
Here are some key facts about oil spills:
OVERVIEW
Pipelines and fixed facilities are responsible for more than two-thirds of oil spilt onto water or land. Accidental spills from ships account for about 15 percent of the oil entering the ocean every year.
Tankers and barges have spilt nearly six million tonnes of oil into the marine environment since 1970, with large spills (greater than 700 tonnes) responsible for most of the oil spilt into water bodies. In 2005, spillage from tankers and barges was about 17,000 tonnes. Oil spills happen most frequently in the Gulf of Mexico, northeastern United States and the Mediterranean Sea.
CAUSES AND EFFECTS
Oil spills can be caused by accidents, breakdown of equipment, natural disasters such as hurricanes or acts of terrorism and war.
Large oil spills at sea can kill thousands of marine animals and destroy habitats, as well as affect the fishing and the tourist industries. Exposure to hydrocarbons can also harm people's health.
CLEAN UP AND COSTS
The cost of clean up depends on the type of oil -- the more viscous and sticky it is, the higher the cost -- and the size and area of the spill. Refined products such as diesel evaporate and dissipate quickly. Oil spills can be contained through use of equipment such as booms and skimmers. The clean up could involve dispersants, gelling agents and raking and bulldozing on shorelines.
The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska was the costliest ever. The clean up alone cost around $2.5 billion while the total cost, including fines and claims settlement, is estimated at $9.5 billion.
RECENT OIL SPILLS AND THE LARGEST ONES
-- Israel's bombing of a Lebanese power plant in July caused 10,000-15,000 tonnes of oil to spill into the Mediterranean Sea and cover the coast with sludge. Lebanon estimates that it would cost at least $100 million to clean up.
-- British oil major BP was forced to suspend half the output at its Prudhoe Bay oilfield in Alaska after two pipelines spills in March and August.
-- The largest oil spill ever was during the 1991 Gulf war, when about 800,000 tonnes of crude oil was deliberately released by Iraq into the Persian Gulf.
-- The biggest oil spill due to an accident at sea occurred in 1979 when the "Atlantic Empress" collided with another vessel and spilt 287,000 tonnes off Tobago.
Sources: Reuters; United Nations Environment Programme (www.unep.org); International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (www.itopf.com); U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov)


Updated : 2021-10-28 16:08 GMT+08:00