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The Largest Oil Spills in History, 1901 to Present

The Largest Oil Spills in History, 1901 to Present
Case NameLocationAmount
in tonnes
DateSpill TypeCauseNote
Deepwater Horizon (Gov’t Low Est)Gulf of Mexico162,33704/21/2010Crude oilWellhead blowoutAn underwater well gushed oil into the Gulf unrestrained until June 6, when a containment cap began capturing some. On July 15, a better-fitting containment cap was attached. Relief wells are being drilled to stop the flow permanently.
Deepwater Horizon (Gov’t High Est)Gulf of Mexico470,77904/21/2010Crude oilWellhead blowoutAn underwater well gushed oil into the Gulf unrestrained until June 6, when a containment cap began capturing some. On July 15, a better-fitting containment cap was attached. Relief wells are being drilled to stop the flow permanently.
Lakeview GusherUnited States, Kern County, California1,227,60003/14/1909Oil SpillWellhead blowoutThe most productive single oil well in California. It was an immense out-of-control pressurized oil well resulting in what is regarded as the largest oil spill in history, lasting 18 months and releasing 9,000,000 barrels of crude oil when it was first tapped in 1909.
Gulf War oil spillPersian Gulf, Kuwait1,091,40501/19/1991Oil SpillWarDuring the 1991 Gulf War, tankers and oil terminals in Kuwait were destroyed, causing the release of an estimated 6-8 million barrels of oil into the waters of the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. Many oil wells in Kuwait were destroyed and set on fire, resulting in the release of much greater amounts of oil and combustion products to land, air, and water in Kuwait. The spill did little long-term damage, international researchers say.
IXTOC IMexico, Gulf of Mexico470,00006/03/1979Oil SpillWellhead blowoutThe 2-mile-deep exploratory well, Ixtoc I, blew out on June 3, 1979 in the Bay of Campeche off Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico. The water depth at the wellhead site is about 50 m (164 feet). By the time the well was brought under control in March, 1980, an estimated 140 million gallons of oil had spilled into the bay.
Atlantic EmpressOff Tobago West Indies287,00007/19/1979Oil SpillCollisionAbout 287000 tonnes of crude spilled after a collision off Tobago between the Atlantic Empress and the Aegean Captain.
Fergana ValleyUzbekistan285,00003/02/1992Oil SpillUnknown
Nowruz Oil FieldPersian Gulf, Iran260,00002/10/1983Crude oil SpillCollision and bombingan oil tanker hit the Nowruz Field Platform in the gulf and knocked it onto a 45 degree angle, damaging the well underneath. The resulting leak of 1,500 barrels a day could not be capped for months because the platform was under constant attack by Iraqi planes.
ABT Summer700 nautical miles off Angola260,00005/28/1991Iranian heavy crude oilFire / ExplosionOn 28th May 1991, while en route from the Gulf terminal at Kharg Island, Iran to Rotterdam the tanker ABT SUMMER, fully laden with a cargo of 260,000 tonnes of Iranian heavy crude oil, experienced an explosion and a fire about 900 miles off the coast of Angola. Five of the 32 crew members on board died as a result of the incident.
Castillo de bellverOff Saldanha Bay South Africa252,00006/08/1983Light crude oilFireCASTILLO DE BELLVER, carrying 252,000 tonnes of light crude oil (Murban and Upper Zakum), caught fire about 70 miles north west of Cape Town, South Africa on 6 August 1983. The blazing ship drifted off shore and broke in two.
Amoco CadizBrittany, France223,00003/16/1978Oil SpillCollisionThe Amoco Cadiz encountered stormy weather and ran aground off the coast of Brittany, France on March 16, 1978. Its entire cargo of 68.7 million gallons of oil spilled into the sea, polluting about 200 miles of Brittany's coastline.
Amoco Haven tanker disasterMediterranean Sea near Genoa, Italy144,00004/11/1991Crude oilExplosionThe Cypriot VLCC (very large crude carrier) the Haven, anchored off the coast of Genoa, was loaded with 144,000 tonnes of crude oil, when she caught fire, exploded and broke into three parts. One of the parts sank on the spot, the others sank during towing.
Production well D-103800 km southeast of Tripoli, Libya 142,86008/01/1980Crude oilWellhead blowout
ODYSSEY700 nautical miles off Nova Scotia Canada132,00011/10/1988Crude oilHeavy weather / FireThe Liberian tanker ODYSSEY, almost fully loaded with a cargo of 132,157 tonnes of North Sea Brent crude oil, broke into two and sank in heavy weather in the North Atlantic 700 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia while on voyage from Sullom Voe, Shetland Islands to Come by Chance Newfoundland. Fire started on the stern section as it sank and the surrounding oil caught fire.
Torrey CanyonIsles of Scilly, England119,00003/18/1967Kuwait crude oilNavigational errorTORREY CANYON ran aground on Pollard Rock on the Seven Stones Reef, near Lands End, Cornwall on 18 March 1967. Thousands of tonnes of oil were soon spilling from the stricken vessel's ruptured tanks and during the next 12 days the entire cargo of approximately 119,000 tonnes of Kuwait crude oil was lost.
Sea StarGulf of Oman115,00012/19/1972Crude oilCollisionThe South Korean tanker SEA STAR was on voyage from Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil when it collided with the Brazilian tanker HORTA BARBOSA in the Gulf of Oman, off the Indian Ocean on 19th December 1972, and exploded, killing 12 crew members. Both vessels caught fire but while the HORTA BARBOSA was extinguished within a day, the SEA STAR continued to burn. After a series of explosions, the SEA STAR sank 5 days after the collision.
Texaco DenmarkNorth Sea, Belgium107,14012/07/1971Oil SpillUnknown
Shuaiba Petroleum TankShuaiba, Kuwait106,12008/20/1981Storage tankUnknown
Kharyaga-Usinsk Pipeline SpillUsinsk in Northern Russia (Komi Republic)104,42010/25/1994Oil SpillRuptured pipeline, old equipment
UrquiolaLa Coruña, Spain100,00005/12/1976Oil SpillCollision
Irenes SerenadeNavarino Bay Greece100,00002/23/1980Iraqi crude oil Fire / Explosion
Pipeline No. 126 well and pipelineAhvazin, Iran95,24005/25/1978Oil SpillRuptured pipeline
Hawaiian Patriot300 nautical miles off Honolulu95,00002/23/1977Light Indonesian crude oilHeavy weather / Fire
IndependentaIstanbul, Turkey95,00011/15/1979Crude oilCollision
Jakob MaerskLeixoes, Portugal88,00001/29/1975Crude oilGrounding/ fire
M/V BraerShetland Islands UK85,00001/05/1993Norwegian Gullfaks crude oil and heavy bunker oilHeavy weatherConstant storm force winds and heavy seas broke the ship apart.
Storage tank Tank #6Forcados, Nigeria81,29006/06/1979Oil SpillStorage tank leakHundreds of pipeline leaks and other oil spills happen every year in the Nigerian delta.
Khark 5400 miles north of Las Palmas, Canary Islands80,00012/19/1989Iranian heavy crude oilExplosionThe Iranian oil tanker Khark 5, en route from Kharg Island to Rotterdam, was caught in a storm and suffered an explosion off the coast of Safi, 400 miles north of the Canary Islands.
Aegean SeaLa Coruna Spain74,00012/03/1992North Sea Brent crude oilHeavy weatherThe vessel broke in two and caught fire. Ship and spilled cargo burned for several days, causing dense clouds of black smoke to threaten the city of La Coruna, leading to a temporary mass evacuation.
Sea EmpressMilford Haven UK72,00002/15/1996Blend North Sea crude oilGroundingran aground on the rocks at Saint Ann's Head at the entrance to Milford Haven Bay
NOVAOff Kharg Island Gulf of Iran70,00012/06/1985UnknownUnknown
Katina P25 miles north of Maputo, Mozambique, 6 miles offshore66,70004/19/1992Crude oilStructural/mechanical failure
M/V PrestigeOff Spanish coast64,00011/15/2002Heavy fuel oilSunken Vessel
WafraCape Agulhas, South Africa63,00002/27/1971Arabian crude oilDeliberately sunken
OthelloSweden, Trälhavet Bay60,00003/20/1970Heavy fuel oilCollision
Andros Patria off the coast of La Coruna, Galicia60,00012/31/1978Iranian heavy crude oilExplosionA fire broke out on the Andros Patria after an explosion in one of her tanks, due to a leak in the hull. 34 crew members were killed in the incident and 60,000 of the 210,000 tonnes of Iranian heavy crude oil that the ship was transporting poured into the sea.
Sinclair PetroloreBrazil59,86012/06/1960Oil SpillUnknown
Epic ColocotronisCaribbean Sea, 111 km NW of Puerto Rico, USA58,00005/13/1975Crude oilGrounding
Newtown Creek Oil SpillNewtown Creek, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York55,25011/15/1979Oil and oil productsOil refinery tank explosionAlthough an explosion in 1950 contributed to the contamination, the area has been used by various petroleum companies for more than 140 years, and the 17 million gallons accumulated gradually over that time — not all at once after the explosion.
AssimiGulf of Oman, Ras al Hadd, 93 km from Muscat, Oman53,74001/07/1983Oil SpillFire / ExplosionA fire broke out in the engine room of the tanker Assimi on January 7th, 1983. Three days later explosions took place and the fire intensified. The Assimi finally sunk on January 16, after being towed to deep water 200 miles from the Oman coast. Further explosion occurred as the vessel split in two and sank which ignited the oil on the surface of the water.
Yuyo Maru No. 10Tokyo Bay, Honshu Island, Japan52,83611/09/1974NaphthaCollisionThe Yuyo Maru 10 tanker collided with the ship Pacific Ares in the Uraga Channel in Tokyo Bay. 34 men were killed in the accident after the ship caught fire. All efforts to extinguish the fires failed and finally after 19 days the ship, still burning, was towed far out to sea and sunk by torpedo and gunfire.
VLCC MetulaFirst Narrows, Strait of Magellan, Chile51,00008/09/1974Light Arabian crude oil GroundingThe tanker was passing through the First Narrows area of the Strait of Magellan, during severe tidal and current conditions. The Metula cut a corner too sharp, hitting a 40-foot shoal and grounding itself. The difficulty of navigating a ship of such size, with minimum navigation aids, contributed to the accident.
World Glory65 miles ENE of Durban, South Africa48,30006/13/1968Kuwait crude oilStructural/mechanical failureThe World Glory, bound for Huelva, Spain, broke up. The stern section of the vessel sank after about two hours, while the bow section drifted southwest with the Agulhas Current. The bow was presumed to sink at 30 06 S, 031 54 E, approximately 40 miles from the initial breakup. All the ship's cargo of Kuwait crude oil, eventually spilled into the Indian Ocean.
Pericles GCPersian Gulf, 30 km east-northeast of Doha, Qatar47,62012/09/1983Oil SpillFire / ExplosionA fire broke out in the engine room of the Pericles GC about 200 miles off Doha in Qatar. The crew abandoned the ship which sank after explosions and came to rest on the sea bed with 30 feet of the hull visible above water.
EnnerdaleIndian Ocean, Seychelles46,94006/01/1970Crude oilGroundingThe Ennerdale grounded on an unmarked rock in the Seychelles
British Ambassador333 km west of Iwo Jima Island, Japan46,00001/13/1975Crude oilStructural/mechanical failure
TadotsuStrait of Malacca, near Dumai, Indonesia44,90012/07/1978Oil SpillUnknown
Mandoil IIPacific Ocean, near Warrenton, Oregon, USA42,86002/29/1968Crude oilCollisionThe Mandoil II tanker collided with the Suwaharu Maru in dense fog on February 28, 1968. The Mandoil II caught fire and had to be abandoned
BetelgeuseBantry Bay, Ireland40,00001/08/1979mixed Arabian crude oil Explosion while unloadingThe Betelgeuse oil tanker was unloading her cargo at the Gulf Oil Terminal on Whiddy Island when the vessel exploded, still containing 40,000 tonnes of oil. 50 of the crew members were killed and the Betelgeuse was split in two during the explosion.
NapierSoutheast Pacific Ocean off west coast of Chile38,44006/10/1973Crude oilGrounding
Juan Antonio LavallejaArzew Harbor, Algeria37,40012/29/1980Oil SpillGrounding
EXXON VALDEZPrince of Wales Island, Alaska37,00001/23/1989Alaska North Slope crude oilGroundingThe Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The tanker was traveling outside the normal shipping lanes in an attempt to avoid ice. It spilled 37,000 tonnes of oil into the marine environment, and impacted more than 1,100 miles of non-continuous Alaskan coastline. State and Federal agencies continue to monitor the effects of this spill, which was the largest oil spill in U.S. History.
CorinthosDelaware River, Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania35,70001/31/1975Algerian crude oilFire / Explosion
Saint PeterPacific Ocean, 56 km W of Punta Manglares, Colombia35,03002/06/1976Crude oilFire / ExplosionA fire broke out in the engine room of the St. Peter tanker on February 4th, 1976. The vessel burned for two or three days before it sank approximately 18 miles off Cabo Manglares, Colombia. The wreck lying at a depth of 1000 meters was known to be leaking oil nine months after sinking.
ChryssiBermuda32,00012/01/1970Crude oilStructural/mechanical failure
Tasman Spiritoff Karachi ( Pakistan )30,00007/27/2003UnknownGrounding
Jiyeh power station oil spillLebanon conflict30,00007/15/2006Heavy fuel oilWar
Montara oil spillAustralia, Timor Sea30,00008/21/2009Oil and gas leakWellhead blowout
Argo Merchant29 miles southeast of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts28,00012/15/1976Fuel oilGroundingshipwreck broke apart
Ekofisk Bravo oil fieldNorway, North Sea27,60004/22/1977Wellhead blowoutdue to an incorrectly installed downhole safety valve
Funiwa No. 5 WellNiger Delta, Forcados, Nigeria27,28501/17/198Crude oilWell BlowoutThe Funiwa No. 5 well located 5 miles off the Niger Delta, Nigeria, blew out. Approximately 200,000 barrels of oil spilled from the well. On January 29 the oil ignited. The flow of oil stopped on February 1 as the Funiwa No. 5 bridged.
ErikaFrance, Bay of Biscay20,00012/12/1999Heavy fuel oildamage to ship
KirkiCervantes, Western Australia17,28007/21/1991Light crude oilUnknown
M/V MegaborgGulf of Mexico, 57 miles SE of Galveston, Texas16,50106/08/1990Angolan Crude Oil Fire during lightering operations
Seki oil spillE coast of the United Arab Emirates near Fujaira in the Gulf of Oman15,90003/31/1994Crude oilCollisionCrude oil leaked into the Arabian Sea after the Panamanian-flagged supertanker Seki spilled the crude 10 miles (16 km) off the UAE port of Fujairah, just outside the Gulf, when it collided with the UAE tanker Baynunah, which was in ballast. Oil reached the UAE coast north of Khor Fakkan close to the Strait of Hormuz. The oil slick severely polluted several beaches and threatened more than 25 miles (40 km) of coastline.
Santa Barbara Well blowoutSanta Barbara, California14,00001/28/1969Crude oilWell Blowout
TanioBrittany, France13,50003/07/1980No. 6 fuel oilHeavy weather
LimburgYemen, Gulf of Aden12,20006/10/2002Crude oilBomb attack
Bass Enterprises (Hurricane Katrina)Cox Bay, Louisiana , United States12,00009/06/2005Crude oilHurricane Katrina
MT Hebei SpiritSouth Korea, Yellow Sea10,80012/07/2007Crude oilCollisionThe oil tanker the Hebei Spirit was anchored in front of the Port of Incheon on the west coast of South Korea, south of Seoul, when it was hit by the barge Samsung 1 which was drifting as its towline had broken.
Ashland Petroleum CompanyFloreffe, Pennsylvania10,00001/04/1988Diesel fuelTank failureA 4 million gallon oil storage tank owned by Ashland Oil Company, Inc., split apart and collapsed at an Ashland oil storage facility located in Floreffe, Pennsylvania, near the Monongahela River
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