Recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill doesn’t compare to those of the 20th century

By Mary Whitfill

Staff Writer

The April Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been deemed the Deepwater Horizon spill, but even if the spill continues for another month it won’t make the list of top 10 oil spills in history.

1. Gulf War
When: 1991
Location: Kuwait
Gallons Spilled:336 million

2. Ixtoc 1 Oil Well
When: 1979
Location: Bay of Campeche, Mexico
Gallons Spilled: 140 million

3. Atlantic Empress
When: 1979
Location: West Indies
Gallons Spilled: 87.7 millions

4. Fergana Valley
When: 1992
Location: Uzbekistan
Gallons Spilled: 87.7 million

5. Nowruz Oil Field
When: 1983
Location: Persian Gulf
Gallons Spilled: 80 million

6. ABT Summer
When: 1991
Location: Angola
Gallons Spilled: 80 million

7. Castillo de Bellver
When: 1983
Location: South Africa
Gallons Spilled: 78.5 million

8. Amoco Cadiz
When: 1978
Location: France
Gallons Spilled: 68.7 million

9. Odyssey Oil Spill
When: 1988
Gallons Spilled: 43 million

10. M/T Haven Tanker
When: 1991
Location: Italy
Gallons: 42 million

Despite the attempts humans make to clean up after themselves, nature ends up doing most of the repair work. As soon as oil hits the water, the ocean begins deconstruction. The ocean begins to destroy the oil’s hydrocarbons and turning them into a substance safer for the environment. During the first few days of a spill. between 20 and 40 percent of oil’s mass turns into gas and what is left is compounds that are able to slow down the oils spread across the water. It is then that the human clean up efforts begin.

Nature has many years of experience in dealing with natural and man made oil seeps, but the oil does not usually leave a permanent trace on the environment.