4 reasons why oil spills are so bad for the environment (and how to prepare)

SpillPro on 26 September 2022

1. Danger to sealife

Immediately after an oil spill, marine life including fish, sea birds, dolphins, whales, turtles and other animals will be visibly coated in oil. As a result, they can die of poisoning or suffocation. Animals could also drown as their fur and feathers become drenched with oil, impacting their ability to regulate body temperature and their natural buoyancy. Likewise, birds may ingest oil as they preen themselves, causing organ damage. Airborne fumes from petroleum products such as jet fuel pose a risk too. Animals can suffer burns, eye irritation and neurological issues. It’s really horrible business! 

2. Disruption to the ecosystem

Beyond the initial impact on sealife, animals may suffer in the weeks and months following a leak. Oil impacts food sources (e.g plankton) for sealife as well as breeding and reproduction. For example, birds may lay eggs with thinner shells that are prone to breaking.

3. Impact on the shore

It’s not just the ocean that is impacted by an oil spill. Large spills are likely to reach the beach. Oil will coat and cling to every rock and grain of sand. Then it can wash into coastal marshes, mangrove forests and other wetlands. Plants and grasses will absorb the oil, damaging the area and making it dangerous to wildlife.

4. Long-term effects

The Deepwater Horizon slick in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was the largest-ever oil spill in US history. More than 500 million litres were spilt. Eight years later, levels of oil in the sediments were reported to be 10 times higher than prior to the accident. For many deep-sea creatures, recovery will take decades. One study found that the immune system of bottlenose dolphins exposed to the spill may be affected for generations. Programs have been put in place to help restore sea turtles, oysters, marine mammals and birds.

Spillpro provided containment equipment to help contain the 2010 disaster. When an oil spill occurs and to minimise harm, it is crucial that containment measures are put in place right away. That is why companies that deal with oil should always have the proper equipment on hand, should anything go awry. This includes oil skimmers, containment booms, absorbents and other clean-up equipment.

What is a containment boom?

Containment booms are your first line of defence following a spill. They quickly contain, manage and clean up water oil spills by quite literally containing it. Oil booms can be applied offshore; nearshore (beaches, harbours and ports); in canals and streams; in calm water and fast currents; in roadside ditches and more.

There are a number of different types of containment booms including foam-filled oil booms, inflatable and self-inflating oil booms as well as fire booms for the in-situ burning of oil spills.

They are easy to transport, rapid to deploy and tough enough for use on even the largest oil spills.

What about oil skimmers?

The next point of call following an oil spill is an oil skimmer. Oil skimmers are simple mechanical devices that skim the surface of fluid to remove the floating oil or grease using a skimming media.

SpillPro provides a range of oil skimming options including drum skimmers, weir skimmers, self-launching skimmers and suction skimmers. As well as supplying skimmers, we can commission them on-site, train your staff in their effective use and supply accessories to boost your oil skimmer’s effectiveness.

As you can see, oil spills are very serious business. For 15 years, SpillPro has been Australia’s leading supplier of oil skimmers and containment booms. We have supplied equipment to the likes of ExxonMobil, Puma, AMOSC, AMSA and PNG Ports. For more information on how you can prepare your company, email us or phone 1800 368 450.