1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email

Geography of the World's Largest Oil Spills

Learn About the World's Largest Oil Spills

By

Oil Spill Workers

Workers load oil booms onto a boat as the effort continues to try and contain the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico of April 2010 in St Bernard Parish, Louisiana.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On April 20, 2010, a large oil spill began in the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion on a British Petroleum (BP) oil drilling rig there called Deepwater Horizon. In the weeks following the oil spill, the news was dominated by depictions of the spill and its growing size as oil continued to leak from an underwater well and pollute the Gulf of Mexico's waters. The spill harmed wildlife, damaged fisheries and severely hurt the overall economy of the Gulf region.

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill was not fully contained until late July 2010 and throughout the duration of the spill it was estimated that 53,000 barrels of oil per day were leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. In total almost 5 million barrels of oil were released which makes it the largest accidental oil spill in the world's history.

Oil spills like the one in the Gulf of Mexico are not uncommon and many other oil spills have occurred in the world's oceans and other waterways in the past. The following is a list of fifteen major oil spills (Gulf of Mexico included) that have taken place around the world. The list is organized by the final amount of oil that entered waterways.

1) Gulf of Mexico/BP Oil Spill

• Location: Gulf of Mexico
• Year: 2010
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 205 million gallons (776 million liters)

2) Ixtoc I Oil Well

• Location: Gulf of Mexico
• Year: 1979
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 140 million gallons (530 million liters)


3) Atlantic Empress

• Location: Trinidad and Tobago
• Year: 1979
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 90 million gallons (340 million liters)

4) Fergana Valley

• Location: Uzbekistan
• Year: 1992
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 88 million gallons (333 million liters)

5) ABT Summer

• Location: 700 nautical miles from Angola (3,900 km)
• Year: 1991
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 82 million gallons (310 million liters)

6) Nowruz Field Platform

• Location: Persian Gulf
• Year: 1983
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 80 million gallons (303 million liters)

7) Castillo de Bellver

• Location: Saldanha Bay, South Africa
• Year: 1983
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 79 million gallons (300 million liters)

8) Amoco Cadiz

• Location: Brittany, France
• Year: 1978
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 69 million gallons (261 million liters)

9) MT Haven

• Location: Mediterranean Sea near Italy
• Year: 1991
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 45 million gallons (170 million liters)

10) Odyssey

• Location: 700 nautical miles (3,900 km) off of Nova Scotia, Canada
• Year: 1988
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 42 million gallons (159 million liters)

11) Sea Star

• Location: Gulf of Oman
• Year: 1972
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 37 million gallons (140 million liters)

12) Morris J. Berman

• Location: Puerto Rico
• Year: 1994
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 34 million gallons (129 million liters)

13) Irenes Serenade

• Location: Navarino Bay, Greece
• Year: 1980
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 32 million gallons (121 million liters)


14) Urquiola
• Location: A Coruña, Spain
• Year: 1976
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 32 million gallons (121 million liters)

15) Torrey Canyon

• Location: Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom
• Year: 1967
• Amount of Oil Spilled in Gallons and Liters: 31 million gallons (117 million liters)

These were some of the largest oil spills to take place around the world. Smaller oil spills that have been equally as damaging have also taken place throughout the late 20th century. For example, the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in 1989 was the largest spill in United States history. It occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska and spilled around 10.8 million gallons (40.8 million liters) and impacted 1,100 miles (1,609 km) of coast.

To learn more about large oil spills visit NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration.

References

Hoch, Maureen. (2 August 2010). New Estimate Puts Gulf Oil Leak at 205 Million Gallons - The Rundown News Blog - PBS News Hour - PBS. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2010/08/new-estimate-puts-oil-leak-at-49-million-barrels.html

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (n.d.). Incident News: 10 Famous Spills. Retrieved from: http://www.incidentnews.gov/famous

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2004, September 1). Major Oil Spills - NOAA's Ocean Service Office of Response and Restoration. Retrieved from: http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/index.php

Telegraph. (2010, April 29). Major Oil Spills: The Worst Ecological Disasters - Telegraph. Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/7654043/Major-oil-spills-the-worst-ecological-disasters.html

Wikipedia. (2010, May 10). List of Oil Spills- Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oil_spills

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.