General, Research, Technology

The largest oil spills, similar to the disaster in Norilsk

At the end of May 2020, at TPP-3 in Norilsk, due to subsidence of the foundation under the tank with diesel fuel on land and in rivers Barn and Daldykan almost all of its contents leaked out. 15 thousand tons of oil products fell into the nearest rivers and reservoirs, and another 5 thousand tons - into the ground. It got to the point that on June 3 in the Krasnoyarsk Territory an emergency was announced on a federal scale. According to scientists, the region was threatened by an environmental catastrophe - most animals and inhabitants of water bodies are unlikely to survive this disaster. At the same time, unfortunately, spills of oil and oil products on land or water are not so rare: over the past 100 years there have been quite a few such incidents, and there are a number of the largest that have already led to an environmental disaster.

Norilsk oil spill becomes the largest in the history of the Arctic


  • 1 Oil spill in Norilsk
    • 1.1 Oil in the Pyasina River
  • 2 Largest oil spills
    • 2.1 Oil spill in the Persian Gulf - 1.2 million tons
    • 2.2 Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico - 800 thousand tons
    • 2.3 Oil spill in Campeche (Mexico) - 500 thousand tons
    • 2.4 Collision of oil tankers - 330 thousand tons
    • 2.5 Oil spill in Uzbekistan - 285 thousand tons
  • 3 How to clean oil spills
  • 4 Consequences of an oil spill

Oil spill in Norilsk

As a result Accidents at Norilsk Thermal Power Station-3 May 29, 2020 there was a leak of 21 thousand tonspetroleum products. If you compare this figure with the largest spills, it does not seem so big, but nevertheless, you should not treat this accident as just a small problem. It can cause irreparable damage not only to the inhabitants of the nearest bodies of water, but also to many animals on land.

Rivers Barn and Daldykan became heavily contaminated with oil

The first to take a hit the inhabitants of the nearestreservoirs. Adult individuals are still able to leave the infected area and swim away, but young fish cannot be saved. Nearly 40 species of fish will be affected, including salmon, whitefish, Siberian sturgeon and grayling. Due to the oil film on the surface of the water, they will experience oxygen starvation. Many species of fish simply cease to exist, not to mention other aquatic inhabitants. Initially, oil products only got into the Ambarnaya and Daldykan rivers, but soon reached Lake Pyasino and the Pyasina River.

Oil in the Pyasina River

After oil has entered Pyasina River liquidators of the accident became much more difficult to extracttheir. This is a river with a very fast flow and high water level. Therefore, part of the toxic substances quickly dissolved and settled at the bottom, and the other rushed further downstream into the Kara Sea. Now it has become impossible to completely filter the fuel.

The liquidators are trying to stop the spread of oil along the Pyasina River, but the course is too fast

There is also a problem in the volatility of petroleum products. Due to the wind, they can reach remote areas, penetrate the soil and fall into groundwater (springs). Therefore, in danger not only aquatic inhabitants, but also terrestrial ones - arctic foxes, arctic hares, polar wolves, rodents, reindeers. Threatened and birds - ducks, geese, swans, waders. The scale of the defeat is several tens of kilometers. Moreover, even if the birds can fly further, after contact with petroleum products they will still be susceptible to diseases and will be weaker than their relatives. Even people will suffer, especially those for whom the main source of food is fish. It is impossible to catch it in the infected reservoirs. But will everyone comply with these recommendations?

Fishwho will survive the accident in Norilsk will not be able to eat. It may contain heavy metals and traces of petroleum products. And we are talking not only about the place of the spill, but also tens of kilometers around it.

So far, according to various estimates, from spilled fuelso far only a few hundred tons have been collected, these are thousandths of the total leakage. At the same time, the reservoir can be cleaned most effectively in the first days: the fuel evaporates quite quickly, and soon traces of oil products will no longer be visible on the water. But this does not mean that they will not be there.

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The largest oil spill cases

Why do they happen oil spills? Sometimes the weather is due towhich damage storage tanks for petroleum products. And in the last century, several such cases took place during hostilities: one side simply fired indiscriminately at rival ships, and oil tankers inevitably came under attack. Nevertheless, in most cases, the cause of such disasters is the human factor: poor inspection of the tanks for cracks and “metal fatigue”, unreliable fastening, and so on.

Let's look at the largest oil spills in history that have much in common with the disaster in Norilsk.

Gulf oil spill - 1.2 million tons

This case remains the largest and most terrible.oil spill in world history. It occurred on February 28, 1991 during the war between a multinational force led by the United States and Iraq to restore Kuwait’s independence. The accident was deliberately arranged by Iraqi soldiers when they retreated from Kuwait - they considered it a vengeful military operation. Soldiers fired at many oil rigs and specially opened oil well valves and wells. Thus was organized discharge of oil into the Persian Gulf. As a result, about 1.2 million tons of oil and oil products fell into the reservoir.

Gulf oil spill destroys thousands of fish species

As if that were not enough, the Iraqi army atThe retreat managed to set fire to oil wells, which were completely put out only after 9 months! Gulf ecology was severely damaged due to this incident - tens of thousands of birds and aquatic inhabitants died. Many animals died due to thick smoke from burning wells. It even led to human casualties - the pilots of the Saudi Arabian transport plane were unable to land the plane due to smoke, 90 people were killed. If this happened among the forests, there would have been even more victims among animals, but since oil depots are located in the desert, there are not many inhabitants.

Gulf fires extinguished for nearly 9 months

It took more than 10 years to eliminate the disaster, during which time black rains from oil product residues were observed in Kuwait, Turkey and the UAE. This disaster is considered one of the most severe in history.

Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico - 800 thousand tons

This spill has already occurred unintentionally, howeverThe environmental consequences were also disastrous - almost 800 thousand tons of oil fell into the Gulf of Mexico. The accident occurred on April 20, 2010 due to an explosion and the subsequent fire on an oil platform Deepwater horizonowned by BP, 80 kilometers off the coastLouisiana State. At the time of the explosion, 11 oil workers were killed on the platform, another 17 were hit hard. Also, several people subsequently died in the liquidation of the accident.

Extinguishing Deepwater Horizon Platform

Explosion damaged oil wellsat a depth of 1,500 meters, and all the oil from there rushed into open waters. As a result, a spot formed on the Gulf of Mexico, the area of ​​which reached 75 thousand square kilometers (almost 5% of the total area of ​​the gulf). Many fish and birds died, other species of animals are still on the verge of extinction. Due to the fact that many residents took part in the rescue of animals and the elimination of the accident, nature was not inflicted as much damage as it could be with complete inaction.

The effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

Oil spill in Campeche (Mexico) - 500 thousand tons

Another major oil spill also occurred inMexico, but much earlier - June 3, 1979. The Mexican government-owned Pemex company attempted to drill an oil well in Campeche Bay, in the south of the Gulf of Mexico, to a depth of more than 3,000 meters. During drilling, an accident occurred due to a stop in the circulation of the drilling fluid, due to which the oilmen could not maintain optimal pressure in the drill shaft. As a result, under the resulting uncontrolled pressure, oil broke into the water, which floated to the surface and caught fire. The Sedco 135 drilling platform, from which the operation was carried out, also caught fire and crashed into the sea.

It took almost a year to eliminate the consequences of this accident.

As a result, there were 500 in the Gulf of Mexicothousand tons of oil (yeah, he suffered a lot). To eliminate the leak, chemicals were used that collected oil from the surface and allowed it to be quickly removed. Nevertheless, the leak was finally eliminated almost a year later - in March 1980.

Collision of oil tankers - 330 thousand tons

A month after the disaster in Campeche Bayanother catastrophe occurred - already off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago, caused entirely by the human factor. On July 19, 1979, two oil tankers collided there - Atlantic Empress and Aegean Captain (“Atlantic Empress” and “Aegean Captain”). As a result of the accident, Atlantic Empress caught fire, could not be put out for a long time, after which several explosions thundered and oil from the tanker began to spill at a speed of tens of tons per hour.

Atlantic Empress fire caused by collision of two tankers

The second ship also caught fire, but they couldtow to a safe place and extinguish. The first tanker burned out completely and went under water. The crews of both tankers died in the crash, most of them were poisoned by carbon monoxide.

This oil spill is considered the largest inshipping history - about 330 thousand tons. Although oil did not reach the shore, irreparable damage was caused to the water inhabitants. Entire species of fish ceased to exist.

Oil spill in Uzbekistan - 285 thousand tons

Not only in open waters did similardisaster. So, on March 2, 1992, an oil spill occurred at the Mingbulak field in the Ferghana Valley in Uzbekistan. One of the wells exploded, it could not be put out for two months, and more than 285 thousand tons of oil were spilled.

The smoke that was recorded from the satellite during the accident in the Ferghana Valley

No one reported the causes of the explosion, the placedisasters were quickly surrounded by dams and the spill was stopped. However, it is still the largest in history on the land territory of Asia. One can only guess how many animals died due to this disaster.

One way to minimize the consequences of such accidents is to use more environmentally friendly diesel fuel.

How to clean oil spills

If oil spills on water surfaces, scientists use incineration, chemical and natural sorbents, fungi, and even bacteria to clean it. Also common mechanical pumping of oil: Special pumps “rake” the upper layer of water and pump it into separate tanks. However, this method is not the most effective, since it allows you to collect no more than 20% of the fuel.

Often oil on the surface of the water intentionally set fire to - So, for example, they did it during an oil spill afterthe accident of the Torrey Canyon tanker in 1967 and the Exxon Valdez accident off the coast of Alaska in 1989. Nevertheless, this measure is effective only in the early days, when the oil film on the surface of the water is still thick. Then it is no longer possible to set fire to oil products - water does not allow this to be done because of the close proximity.

As soon as the oil film becomes too thin, begin to apply chemical reagents - they bind oil products among themselves and undertheir gravity sink into the water column. This method of cleaning is used for accidents in the open sea - this allows you to remove the film from the surface of the water and prevent it from reaching the coast. That is how the consequences of the accident in the Gulf of Mexico were eliminated in 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded, and oil continuously flowed into the water area of ​​the gulf.

Worker removes traces of oil from the shoreline in the Gulf of Mexico

The problem with this method is that chemicalreagents are very toxic, and their use in shallow water is very dangerous because it can harm the ecosystem. Oil still gets into living organisms and settles at the bottom. Yes, it is no longer visible to the eye, but what is happening under water is scary to imagine.

As an alternative to chemical reagents used natural sorbents - for example, husks of rice or sunflower seeds,charcoal crumbs or sawdust. They act like a giant sponge. In this case, the damage to nature from cleaning will be minimal, but the problem is that such sorbents do not collect as many petroleum products as chemical ones. Scientists are constantly developing new methods for cleaning water surfaces from oil, one of the newest is a sorbent based on thermally expanded graphite, which collects about 80 grams of oil per gram of sorbent. For comparison, natural sorbents can absorb no more than 5 grams of oil per 1 gram.

So far, it is best to use sorbents. together with microbiological preparations. So sorbents absorb oil products, and microorganisms immediately begin to process them. The resulting mass can be collected, removed and disposed of somewhere else.

Oil refining is not to say is beneficial tothe environment. A huge amount of greenhouse gases and other substances every day more and more poison our planet. However, scientists have found a way to get fuel from oil. In this case, completely without harm to the atmosphere.

Full oil pollution cleaning possible using bacteria - they are sprayedto the surface of pollution after at least 90% of the oil products have already been exhausted. For this, dried microorganisms are used: the microbial biomass is dried using sorbents or in another way, as a result, a powder with spores of microbes and living cells is obtained. Subsequently, they can be easily delivered to the place of contamination and applied. Some types of mushrooms are also able to "digest" oil products, but growing them is much more difficult than bacteria.

Consequences of an oil spill

Over the past 100 years, major oil spills have led to environmental disasters

Even if it works out as quickly as possibleeliminate the oil slick on the water, most of the inhabitants of the reservoir will inevitably die. However, if you do nothing at all or act too slowly, more fish and other aquatic inhabitants may be at risk. We are talking about tens of thousands of individuals who die from poisoning with oil products.

One drop of oil makes it unsuitable for drinking, nor for fish, nor for anything living 25 liters of water.

What are the accidents with oil on the land? Everything is much worse here. If it is still possible to collect oil products from water, then on land pollution of this kind can seep very deeply. And getting them out of there is not so easy. If the oil has gone no further than 50 centimeters underground, it can still be collected with sorbents. However, sometimes it passes through the upper horizons of the soil and abuts against the permafrost layer. This is dangerous because the oil slick accumulates above the layer, forming a lens, and spreads out - already horizontally. Digging the soil to remove pollution is also not a good idea; you can damage the resistant layer of permafrost or clay that holds oil products. And oil will thus be even deeper.

Onshore oil spills can be even more dangerous

Much also depends on the type of fuel thatspilled out. So, in the case of the disaster in Norilsk on Wednesday got diesel fuel. It has a lot of aromatic hydrocarbons and carcinogens. Due to the fact that they are poorly soluble in water, they are easily withdrawn together with petroleum products. But this is an extra job.

To find out when the consequences of the spill will becompletely eliminated, environmental monitoring is needed. It includes regular sampling of soil and water after stripping the scene of an accident. The problem is that this measure is extremely costly, so few people do it. But it would be worth it. Well, or more accurately handle petroleum products so that such disasters do not happen, since they have somehow learned how to extract oil.