Oil Spill Facts:
- The Minerals Management Service estimates that in the Gulf of Mexico there will be one spill of at least 1000 barrels every year for the next 40 years and one spill of at least 10,000 barrels every three to four years during that same time.
-The outer continental shelf of the continental United States is estimated to have around 59 billion barrels of oil.1 Considering that the U.S. consumed around 7 billion barrels2 in 2008, the total amount of oil would only be enough for 8 years.
-There is an estimated 930 million barrels of oil in the entire eastern Gulf of Mexico, the area with the most industry interest. Against current rates of consumers, that breaks down to approximately 47 days worth of oil.
-The vast majority – 80 percent – of the nation’s undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas is located in areas that were already open to drilling when the Congressional moratorium was in place, according to the Department of the Interior’s 2006 Report to Congress: Comprehensive Inventory of U.S. OCS Oil and Natural Gas Resources.
-Since 1964, offshore operators have had 40 spills greater than 1000 barrels (42,000 gallons). During Hurricanes Katrina and Rita 741,000 gallons were spilled into the waters of the Gulf from off shore rigs. That total balloons to more than nine million gallons spilled when you include spills from onshore oil and gas infrastructure.
On July 23, 2009 tar balls began washing up on the shore of South Padre Island, Texas. By the end of the day, officials had already filled seven 55 gallon drums with oil that had washed ashore.3 The source of this oil remains unknown. South Padre Island is a barrier island that is extremely popular both as a fishing destination as well as a resort location.
On July 25, 2009 an underwater pipeline owned by Shell leaked 58,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Such pipelines are an essential component of any offshore operation. Already, we have aging pipelines crisscrossing the Gulf. Clearly, they are not up the task of cleanly and safely transporting oil. Within a matter of days, that spill grew to cover 80 square miles. (Note 4)
On July 31, 2009 a ship ran aground outside Langesund off the Norwegian coast and spilled around 1,100 tons heavy bunker oil. This is well over 300,000 gallons of the most destructive type of oil.5 Two and half years ago, Norway had a spill of 370 tons. That spill was the most expensive clean-up operation in Norwegian history and resulted in the deaths of 8,000 seabirds.
On August 21, 2009 a new, high-tech rig began leaking about 150 miles off the northwestern Australian coast. That spill is ongoing and is estimated to currently cover 5800 square miles. The oil spill is expected to continue for another seven weeks, dumping directly into the Timor Sea until it can be properly contained. (note 6) In the path of the slick lies the West Kimberley region of the Timor Sea, one of the last untouched marine wilderness areas.
On November 29, 2009 a spill of 46,000 gallons of oil, water and natural gas, was reported at the Lisburne oil field, a BP-operated site on Alaska’ North Slope. The cause was a reported 2-foot split at the bottom of an 18-inch pipeline that was plugged up by ice, allowing oil and water to spray out across 8,400 square feet of tundra.
Cleanup involved bringing in steaming equipment to loosen the frozen materials, loading it into buckets and totes and bringing it to another area where it was to be melted and measured. Icy conditions delayed cleanup efforts, keeping observation planes grounded for days and preventing cleanup crews from accessing the southern area of the spill. State officials say the spill was one of the worst by volume since the March 2006 spill of 200,000 gallons of crude at Prudhoe Bay -- the biggest spill ever on the North Slope.
On December 2, 2009 another spill was from a pipeline inside a manifold building at a different Prudhoe Bay drill site. That spill released an estimated 7,170 gallons of produced water, according to state environmental officials.
On December 21, 2009 a breach at a well line in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oilfield resulted in a spill of as much as 100 gallons of crude oil or between 300 and 700 gallons of liquids, including crude oil and water produced from the oil well. The company originally estimated that three gallons of oil and 131 gallons of water had been released. The reason for the spill is still under investigation.
On December 23, 2009 a tugboat heading back to its port in Valdez after completing an ice survey on Dec. 23 struck Bligh Reef, breaching two of the tug’s centerline diesel fuel tanks, potentially spilling 33,500 gallons of diesel fuel. The tugboat, called the Pathfinder, is a Crowley Marine Services docking and escort tug that is part of the Ship Escort Response Vessel System that was created after the Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989.
A dive team found extensive hull damage, with a section of the keel missing. Alcohol testing of all six crewmembers was completed with negative results. The Pathfinder is still anchored and boomed south of Busby Island. The Valdez Star, an oil response vessel, is skimming the water in the vicinity of a light silver diesel sheen. The sheen is a mile or so east of Glacier Island and is three miles long and 30 yards wide.
On April 3, 2010 a Chinese ship carrying 65,000 tons of coal ran aground on the
Great Barrier Reef, causing damage to the reef and leaking tons of oil. The Shen Neng 1 was in a restricted zone 9 miles outside of the shipping lane when it hit the reef at full speed. Leaking oil could be seen at least 2.5 miles from the ship. Note 7
On April 6, 2010 a pipeline spilled 18,000 gallons of crude oil in the Delta National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, which is about 60 miles southeast of New Orleans, is the breeding area for several bird species, a winter habitat for ducks, as well as a migratory bird stopping area. Note 8
On April 22, 2010 the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon sank off the coast of
Louisiana, which continues to leak 42,000 gallons a day from the uncapped well
5,000 ft. below the surface. One third of the world’s oil dispersant is ready to be
used to combat the massive amount of leaked oil, which has covered 400 sq. miles of the Gulf of Mexico with oil. Note 9
1 Survey of Available Data on OCS Resources and Identification of Data Gaps, Report to the Secretary US DOI. OCS Report MMS 2009-015p II-8
2 Energy Information Administration. http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/ask/crudeoil_faqs.asp#barrels_consume_year,” Accessed September 6th, 2009.
3 My San Antonio. “Texas, Coast Guard Scramble Against Oil on Beach.” July 24, 2009.
4 Rockford Register Star. “Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Sheen Grows.” July 28, 2009.
5 Stockholm News. “Oil Spill Outside Norway Can Reach Sweden.” August 2, 2009.
6 “Seadrill Offers Rig to Help Australian Oil Gush.” Reuters. August 25, 2009.
7 Times Online, “Oil Threat to Great Barrier Reef After Ship Runs Aground.” April 5, 2010.
8 The Huffington Post, “Louisiana Oil Spill: About 18,000 Gallons of Crude Spill in Delta National
Wildlife Refuge.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/06/louisiana-oil-spill-about_n_527888.html
9 Times Online, “Oil well hit by fatal explosion produces oil slick the size of Hong Kong.” April 26, 2010.