Oil Spill – A Major Threat to Humans and Wildlife

Oil spills can have grave repercussions for the ecosystem and thus prevention is of utmost priority

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Oil Spill Threat to Wildlife

Oil is an important necessity in our society and a sustainer of our lifestyle. Its production and consumption are increasing worldwide and the threat to oil pollution is also growing at the same time. One of the major causes of oil pollution is oil spill which is a frequent occurrence and has raised environmental concerns for decades. While most oil spills happen due to human error, some occur naturally from seepages from oil deposits beneath the ocean floor.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred on 20 April 2010 is the largest oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry and the most expensive man-made disaster on record. The blowout took place at one of BP’s deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and causing over 3 million barrels of oil to leak out into the ocean waters. The spilled oil that washed ashore across the five Gulf Coast states affected the lives of millions of people, killed thousands of wildlife, and caused several destructions to natural resources. Even though the fault was BP’s, the federal government failed in its responsibility to look after offshore drilling. Both BP and the federal government were unsuccessful at stopping the oil flow from the well or to contain it once the oil reached the surface. Following several unsuccessful attempts to contain the oil flow, the well was declared sealed in September 2010. A massive operation followed to protect beaches and wetlands from the spreading oil with the use of skimmer ships, floating booms, oil dispersant and other mediums. In 2013, around 4,900,000 pounds of oily substance was removed from the beaches in Louisiana, which was twice the amount collected in 2012. Crews worked laboriously on 55 miles of Louisiana shoreline in 2013 to clean up the oil spill.

Another big oil spill incident named Ixtoc I took place in the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico on June 3, 1979. Just the day before the incident, the Ixtoc well started to lose drilling mud and circulation was lost in the well, resulting in the loss of hydrostatic pressure. Several attempts were made to regain circulation in the well, but they failed. The following day, the well blew out, caught fire, and destroyed the platform, causing gas and oil to leak out. Two relief wells were drilled into the main well by Mexican authorities to reduce the pressure of the blowout and stop the spread of oil. However, the oil continued to flow out and the wells did not do much little to stop the oil spread. It was found that the incident killed several species of shrimp and polluted sandy beaches, mangroves, coastal lagoons, and rivers.

For nearly ten months, the well remained uncapped and 475,000 metric tons of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the spilled oil evaporated or sank to the seafloor. Some part of it was washed ashore, some drifted to the beaches in the U.S., some biodegraded, and some other was recovered from the site. The well was eventually capped on March 23, 1980, after having released about 126 million gallons of oil.

Costs incurred due to oil spill are both quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative cost includes loss of the oil, mending of physical facilities, money for cleaning up the spill, the revival of the environment, and others. Qualitative cost includes the loss of wildlife, habitat as well as human health due to water and soil pollution. Therefore, it is very important to be alert and prepared while reacting to oil spills. While players within the space play a crucial role in the prevention and cleaning up of oil spills, the type of technology used is also very important.

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