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Historic Oil Spills

An oil spill is a release of crude oil, or other liquid petroleum hydrocarbon, into the environment due to human activity.  On land, oil spills are usually localized and thus their impact can be eliminated relatively easily. In contrast, marine oil spills may result in oil pollution over large areas and present serious environmental hazards.  Oil spills include releases of crude oil from tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs and wells, as well as spills of refined petroleum products (such as gasoline, diesel) and their by-products, and heavier fuels used by large ships such as bunker fuel, or the spill of any oily refuse or waste oil.

Large oil spills have the potential to cause serious ecological risk (primarily for sea birds and mammals) and result in long-term environmental disturbances (mainly in coastal zones) and economic impact on coastal activities (especially on fisheries, mariculture, and tourism).

  • IXTOC 1 oil spill Featured Article IXTOC 1 oil spill IXTOC 1 oil spill

    On June 3, 1979, the 2 mile deep exploratory well, IXTOC I, blew out in the Bahia de Campeche, 600 miles south of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. The water depth at the wellhead site... More »

  • Floreffe, Pennsylvania oil spill Featured Article Floreffe, Pennsylvania oil spill Floreffe, Pennsylvania oil spill

    In January 1988, a four-million gallon oil storage tank owned by Ashland Oil Company, Inc., split apart and collapsed at an Ashland oil storage facility located in Floreffe,... More »

  • Exxon Valdez oil spill Featured Article Exxon Valdez oil spill Exxon Valdez oil spill

    Read about the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Introduction On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez, en route from Valdez, Alaska to Los... More »

  • Greenpoint Oil Spill Featured Article Greenpoint Oil Spill Greenpoint Oil Spill

        The Greenpoint Oil Release, so named because the series of oil spills occurred in Greenpoint, NY is presumed to be among the largest releases... More »

Recently Updated
NCSE's Oil Day: Intro and Keynote Interview (Reilly Graham) Part 1 Last Updated on 2011-06-16 07:07:02 1,200 participants gathered in Washington, DC on January 19th, 2011 for NCSE's 11th National Conference, "Our Changing Oceans". The first day of this three-day event was soley dedicated to discussing the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster; what lessons have been learned and the paths dictating future ocean policies. This video is a segment of the proceedings from that day. More »
Graphing Changes in Marine Life Abundance Last Updated on 2011-06-04 00:00:00 This activity developed by NOAA will guide you through making a study of the marine life occupying a section, or quadrat, of Mearns Rock (a boulder in Prince William Sound, Alaska, that was oiled in 1989 by the Exxon Valdez oil spill). For your study, you'll use a series of zoomed-in photos of that quadrat. Each shows a different year from 1990 to 2009. Your goal will be to see how the percent cover of mussels, barnacles, and Fucus gardneri (a kind of seaweed, also called rockweed) in this study area has changed during those 19 years. As you complete this project, you'll be using the same method used by real marine biologists. To study how marine life abundance changes from one year to the next, marine biologists sometimes section off a small plot of land that's representative of the particular habitat they're studying (for example, a rocky shoreline or a bog). They use a frame... More »
Oil and water just don't mix Last Updated on 2011-05-18 00:00:00 Oil and water just don’t mix; opinions on deepwater exploration are just as polar. This unit provides teachers with resources to teach about oil in the marine environment and to bring these issues to the surface. Lesson 1: Students will use technology to research current affairs on environmental issues pertaining to oil spills. Students will gain a background understanding of the impact of the Deep Water Horizon spill. Students will make judgments about the efficacy of cleanup response.Students will compare and contrast the efficacy of response to various oil spills.Students will discuss the importance of oil to our society. Students will investigate the chemical properties of oil. Lesson 2:Students will gain an understanding of the environmental impacts of oil to an aquatic community. Students will investigate clean-up methods for oil, highlighting the distinctions... More »
Major oil spills Last Updated on 2011-04-02 17:31:52 A gallery featuring photos of some of the world's largest oil spills, along with a little information about each of those spills. More »
Nightingale Island oil spill (1:54) Last Updated on 2011-03-23 00:00:00 Nightingale Island, part of the remote Tristan da Cunha group in the South Atlantic, was hit on March 16th, 2011 by the MV Oliva, a freighter carrying soybeans from Brazil to Singapore. Over 800 tons of fuel oil was spilled onto the island's shores, poisoning the local population of endangered northern rockhopper penguins. More »