Oil Spill Prevention & Response

Oil Spill Prevention & Oil Spill Response

Oil is the most common pollutant in the oceans. More than 3 million metric tons of oil contaminates the sea every year. The majority of oil pollution in the oceans comes from land. Runoff and waste from cities, industry, and rivers carries oil into the ocean. Ships cause about a third of the oil pollution in the oceans when they wash out their tanks or dump their bilge water. Oil spills account for less than 15% of the total oil in the oceans, but they are one of the most obvious forms of oil pollution. The damage caused by oil spills is certainly seen right away. We've all seen images of the water's surface and shoreline covered with oil and dying animals and plants. Oil spills will continue to be problem and source of pollution, as long as ships and barges move most of our petroleum products around the world.

When oil leaks or spills into water, it floats on the surface of both freshwater and saltwater. Oil floats because it is less dense than water. When these two liquids are mixed together, the denser seawater forms a layer underneath the less dense oil.

It's much easier to clean-up an oil spill because of oil's lower density. You can imagine how difficult it would be to clean-up a spill if oil was denser than water and formed a layer along the bottom instead of the surface. We have come up with several ways to clean-up spilled oil and you may find some of the major methods below.

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