The five biggest oil spills offshore: lessons to learn

API Energys Oil Spill Prevention and Response guidelines give three primary objectives to deal with the resulting fallout: prevent the spill from reaching shore, reduce the impact on marine life, and speed the degradation of any unrecovered oil. With this in mind, Offshore Technology takes a look at the five biggest oil spills worldwide and the key reasons behind them to uncover what lessons can be learned to prevent repeating mistakes of the past.

Biggest oil spills 1: 260 million gallons

Gulf War Persian Gulf 19 January 1991

The biggest oil spill on the list was technically not an accident. During the first Gulf War, Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait opened the valves of several offshore oil wells and pipelines to slow down the approaching US Army. The aftermath resulted in one of the biggest oil spills in world history, with around 260 million gallons of crude oil flowing into the Persian Gulf, according to government sources. The 4in-thick oil slick spread across an area the size of Hawaii.

According to UNESCOs Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the spill resulted in little permanent damage to local fisheries and coral ecosystems.

Lesson: expect the unexpected

Abdul Nabi Al-Ghadban of Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research said: “If you have an offshore operation, you need to have a good contingency plan in case of spillage, damage, earthquake, or a problem with the pipeline.

“We le....

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