Messy Past: A Brief History of Oil Spills Worldwide 

Oil and gas account for nearly 80 percent of all energy that we use daily. These resources are used to power homes, businesses, schools, and entire cities, all being drawn out of the ground directly from the process of oil drilling. Once the resources are collected, they are stored in large containers, sometimes being shipped across the ocean. 

Due to the world’s current dependence on fossil fuels, this is something that we simply cannot get around. With so many resources being extracted from the earth and transported to meet the global energy demand daily, disaster is expected to occur every once in a while. When it comes to oil drilling, these disasters manifest themselves in the form of oil spills. 

While they do not happen frequently, accidents that take place on drilling sites and within water bodies have devastating effects on the environment and nearby wildlife, not to mention the human lives that are often lost as a result. For this reason, each oil spill that has occurred throughout the entire world within the past two decades has left its mark in the history of the fossil fuel industry. 

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Source: Pixabay


The Prestige Oil Spill accident in November of 2002 involved an oil tanker as opposed to the expected oil drill. Oil tankers are large ships that sail across the ocean carrying barrels of petroleum that have been extracted from the ground. 

The load became too heavy and the ship sunk into the ocean, spilling all of its contents out into the water underneath. This incident occurred near the coastline of Spain in the city of Galicia. 

It was reported that almost 18 million gallons of oil spilled into the ocean, damaging all the marine life that resided there. Not only were fish in the sea harmed by this incident, but the oil reached the shores of beaches for miles, causing pollution and affecting the market for local fishermen. 

Jiyeh Power Station

In July 2006, a power plant in Jiyeh, Lebanon was bombed, causing the oil to explode and spill into the nearby Mediterranean Sea. This occurred as a result of a war between Lebanon and Israel, with the Israeli Air Force being responsible for the bombing incident. Following the oil spill, hundreds of kilometers of shoreline were covered in oil. 

MT Hebei Spirit Oil Spill

The MT Hebei Spirit Oil Spill occurred in December 2007 in South Korea. This was one of the largest oil spills in the world and became monumental in South Korea’s history. Near the coast of the Yellow Sea, the Hebei Spirit carrier crashed on the water with a crane barge, tipping over and spilling all of its contents into the water. 

Thousands of tons of oil were released into the environment after the collision. Although no humans were killed in this accident, South Korea has not seen many incidents as environmentally damaging as this one, still to this day. 

Pacific Adventurer

In Queensland, Australia in March of 2009, a container ship called the Pacific Adventurer spilled over, leaking several tons of oil into the surrounding waters. The shores of nearby beaches that were highly regarded as desirable locations for tourists and locals were covered in oil residue. 

Although the spilling site was not in close enough proximity to the Great Barrier Reef to cause any damage, nearby birds and other marine species were certainly affected by the spill. 

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Source: Pixabay

Deepwater Horizon

Last but certainly not least is the infamous Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burst into flames and exploded, releasing several tons of oil into the nearby Gulf Of Mexico. 

Unlike the incidents that were mentioned previously, many employees working on the oil rig walked away injured, with 11 total casualties recorded. This accident was extremely taxing to the environment as well, killing countless wildlife species in the area and contributing to pollution on a large scale. 

Although the world has seen many oil spills and explosions before and after this one, Deepwater Horizon is still regarded as the most severe and damaging event in history. 

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