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World's 10 worst oil disasters

Last updated on: August 19, 2011 12:12 IST

World's 10 worst oil disasters

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With M V Rak Carrier, a 722-feet vessel that recently sank off the Mumbai coast, leaking tonnes of oil into the sea, let us have a look at worst oil disasters in the world.

An oil spill is a release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment due to human activity, and is a form of pollution.

Oil spills include release of crude oil from tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs and wells, as well as spills of refined petroleum products (such as petrol, diesel) and their by-products, and heavier fuels used by large ships such as bunker fuel, or the spill of any oily refuse or waste oil.

Here are world's 10 worst oil disasters.

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Image: Oil spills include release of crude oil from tankers.

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1. Kuwait oil spill

Oil spilled: 5.7 million barrels

Year: 1991

Location: Kuwait

In the largest oil spill of all-time, the Kuwaiti oil spill during the Gulf War is estimated to be almost twice the size of the Ixotoc disaster.

The spill came as a result of the invading Iraqi army intentionally opening oil pipelines and dumping crude from tankers, in order to deter US forces from landing in Kuwait.

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Image: Iraqi army intentionally opened pipelines.

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2. Ixotoc 1

Oil spilled: 3.34 million barrels

Year: 1979

Location: Gulf of Mexico

The Ixotoc 1 was an exploratory oil well located in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Texas.

The rig, owned by the Mexican oil company Pemex, suffered a "blowout", which resulted from a pressure imbalance.

The disaster caused about 10,000 to 30,000 barrels of crude per day to spill from June 3 to March 23 of the next year.

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Image: Ixotoc 1 was an exploratory oil well.

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3. Atlantic Empress/Aegean Captain

Oil spilled: 2.2 million barrels

Year: 1979

Location: Tobago

In July 1979, about 2.2 million barrels of crude oil spilled after two ships, the Atlantic Empress and the Aegean Captain, collided during a tropical storm of the island of Tobago.

Although it took less than a month for crews to recover the ships, the Atlantic Empress continued to leak oil, even as it was being towed away from the site of the original collision.

It eventually sank on August 3.

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Image: Atlantic Empress and Aegean Captain collided near Tobago.

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4. Fergana Valley

Oil spilled: 2.095 million barrels

Year: 1992

Location: Fergana Valley

Although not highly publicized at the time, the March 1992 oil spill in Fergana Valley caused a loss of more than two million barrels of crude oil.

Although the economic significance of the area is mostly based in agriculture, the area has been producing oil since 1908 and it continues to be one of the most active energy and oil refining centres in Uzbekistan.

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Image: Oil spill caused a loss of two million barrels of crude oil.

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5. ABT Summer

Oil Spilled: 1.92 million barrels

Year: 1991

Location: Angola

The Liberian supertanker ABT Summer suffered an explosion 900 miles off the coast of Angola in May 1991, resulting in an oil slick that spanned more than 17 nautical miles.

The disaster killed five crew members on board after the ship burnt for three days prior to sinking.

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Image: The disaster killed five crew members.

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6. Nowruz Oil Field

Oil spilled: 1.9 million barrels

Year: 1983

Location: Iran

On February 10 1983, an oil tanker collided with the Nowruz platform, causing the platform to tilt to a 45 degree angle.

Eventually, wave action and corrosion ate away at the platform's crippled support structure, causing internal collapse that leaked oil at 1,500 barrels per day.

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Image: An oil tanker collided with the Nowruz platform.

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7. Castillo de Bellver

Oil spilled: 1.8 million barrels

Year: 1983

Location: South Africa

The Spanish tanker Castillo de Bellver caught fire and eventually suffered a devastating explosion, which resulted in a spill of more than 1.8 million barrels 70 miles off the coast of South Africa in August 1983.

Although the coastline was in serious danger following the spill, a shift in winds pushed the oil offshore.

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Image: Spanish tanker Castillo de Bellver caught fire and eventually suffered an explosion.

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8. Amoco Cadiz

Oil spilled: 1.6 million barrels

Year: 1978

Location: France

In March 1978, the oil tanker Amoco Cadiz ran aground after its rudder was damaged in a winter storm, and although crews were alerted to the impending disaster, they were unable to halt the ship.

According to the Mariner Group, the ship spilled 1.6 million barrels of crude oil near Portsall, France, and the resulting slick eventually affected 125 miles of coastline.

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Image: Oil tanker Amoco Cadiz ran aground after its rudder was damaged.

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9. Odyssey

Oil spilled: 1.02 million barrels

Year: 1988

Location: Canada

In November 1988, the American-owned Odyssey drilling rig dumped more than one million barrels of crude oil after an explosion off Canada's east coast, although most of the oil burned off before salvage and containment efforts could mobilise.

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Image: A drilling rig dumped more than one million barrels of crude oil.

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10. M/T Haven

Oil spilled: 1 million barrels

Year: 1991

Location: Italy

In April 1991, the M/T Haven suffered a devastating explosion that caused the ship to eventually break in two and sink after three days.

The explosion occurred when the ship was unloading fuel into an offshore loading platform near Genoa, Italy, when a routine transfer procedure caused an explosion that caused flames more than 100 metres high and killed six crew members.


Image: The explosion killed six crew members.

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