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Oil Spills: Importance of Its Clean Up and How It Can Be Done

The contamination of the earth’s water bodies has been the topic of discussion for many years now. There are plenty of culprits polluting and damaging one of the most crucial natural resources.

While water withdrawals from industrial units are considered the top culprit, oil spills do not fall far behind in the list. Thanks to the uneven distribution of oil, the most important energy source for every country, it is transported from one region to another via water or pipelines.

Oil spills could be a result of both a human error or a natural calamity. They are most often caused by accidents that involve pipelines, tankers, or storage facilities. It could either be due to human carelessness or because of equipment being damaged. It is, however, important to start with the cleanup process almost immediately. Here’s why:

Importance of oil spill cleanup

It is of utmost importance that oil spills are cleaned up immediately and quickly, way before oil emulsifies. This is because when oil emulsifies, it means that oil has managed to merge with water and it forms a thick, pudding-like consistency. This emulsification is extremely toxic and harmful to the environment.

When the water gets toxic, it affects the wildlife and other natural elements. It spoils the insulating ability of furry animals such as sea otters and exposes such creatures to the harsh elements. Moreover, many birds and animals can also swallow this water, which is poisonous for them.

Hence, it is crucial that oil spills are taken care of then and there. To make this process a little easy, here are a few methods that transporters can use in case of accidents:

Methods to clean up oil spills

  • Oil Booms

Oil booms are perhaps one of the most popular methods that are used by marines to clean up oil spills. Containment booms act like a fence to ensure that the oil does not spread/float further or does not get emulsified with water. Today, there are containment booms that come with a boom cover. This acts as a filtration fabric for the flotation tube and can be removed and reused.

  • Sorbents

Using sorbents is another way to tackle the oil spill situation. These are the materials that form a layer on the water surface and soak up the liquid that has been spilled. It is a much cleaner and easier way to get rid of oil spills and thus save the environment from getting contaminated. A few of the sorbents that are most commonly used include straw, peat moss, and hay.

  • Skimmers

Skimmers or oil scoops are machines that aid in decontamination of the water surface after oil booms have confined the spilled oil. These machines actually act like your regular vacuum cleaner and suck up the oil, thus separating it from water. Moreover, using skimmers is also a great way to preserve this energy source. With Skimmer, you can not only collect the oil but also process it and use it again later.

  • Burning In-Situ

While this might not be the most ideal method to use, it is still a way that works for oil spills in larger areas. Burning In-situ is a method where the oil that is spilled into the water is burned off. It is often said that approximately 98 percent of oil spills can be cleared with this method. Although, it is only effective if the thickness of the burning layer is at least 3mm. It is not opted by many as the fumes are toxic that can further damage the environment as well as marine wildlife.


Oil spills might occur due to accidents or natural calamities, however, it is our responsibility to ensure that it gets tackled quickly and immediately. Oil spills are harmful to not only the environment but also for marine life. Hence, you can make use of the many methods that are now available to deal with the same.