TECHNOLOGY AND POLICY: THE CLEANUP OF OIL SPILLS FROM UNPROTECTED WATERS

As far as the general public is concerned, the adverse effects of spilled oil coming ashore are more severe than those from oil spills that move offshore. For a large oil spill, 1 knot is a practical upper limit of the relative velocity between a collection or containment device and the fluid. For smaller spills, devices are available to extend the upper speed limit to 2-2.5 knots, but they are impractical for cleanup of large spills at sea. The largest environmental difference between spill cleanup in protected waters and that in unprotected waters is the presence of much larger waves in the latter. Short, steep waves greater than 2 m high may entrain so much oil into the water column that cleanup from the surface is not feasible. The 5 items crucial to oil spill cleanup are barriers, skimmers, storage vessels, towing vessels, and trained personnel. Nothing should be done about oil that is moving away from shorelines if it is expected to evaporate, dissolve, disperse, or biodegrade to relatively safe concentrations before it reaches land. Such processes generally take a few weeks, though longer periods may be required in very cold water. The use of dispersants depends on the specific conditions of the spill. Equipment at a fixed storage location is only appropriate for a 100 mi stretch of coastline. Effective protection would require that each equipment storage area have about 10 total spill cleanup systems, each costing about $2 million. Providing protection from a major spill in the U.S. would require an initial capital investment of about $20 million for each 100 mi of coastline, plus $2 million/yr in maintenance. The total cost would be about $250 million for the entire U.S. coastline.

  • Corporate Authors:

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    Woods Hole, MA  USA 
  • Authors:
    • Milgram, J
  • Publication Date: 1977

Media Info

  • Features: References;
  • Pagination: p. 86-94
  • Serial:
    • Oceanus
    • Volume: 20
    • Issue Number: 4
    • Publisher: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00189086
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: Data Courier, Incorporated
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Mar 28 1979 12:00AM