On April 11, 1991, the MT Haven tanker was unloading a cargo of crude oil onto a floating platform (where oil is often stored before being brought on shore to be sold or refined) off the coast of Genoa, Italy.
During the transfer, an explosion occurred, killing the crew and leaking 45 million gallons of crude oil into the Mediterranean Sea, polluting Italian and French beaches.
Photo: Jean Pierre Rey/Getty Images
9. ABT Summer Oil Spill
The ABT Summer was transporting 286,000 tons of crude oil from Iran to the Netherlands on May 28, 1991. While rounding the horn of Africa, it exploded. The ship burned for three days, leaking between 50 and 80 million gallons of crude oil.
8. Amoco Cadiz Oil Spill
After losing the function of its rudder on March 16, 1978, the Amoco Cadiz ran aground a mere three miles off the coast of Portsall, France. The spill released 69 million gallons of crude oil and motor oil, contaminating the entire French coastline and decimating ocean habitats.
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
7. Castillo de Bellver Oil Spill
The Castillo de Bellver was traveling 50 miles off the cost of Saldanha, South Africa, on August 6, 1983, when it exploded and split in half. Seventy nine million gallons of light crude oil poured into the bay. Dispersant was sprayed, preventing the spill from coming within 20 miles off the South African coast.
Photo: Oil Spill Solutions
6. Nowruz Oil Field Spill
On February 10, 1983, an oil tanker ran into a platform in the Persian Gulf’s Nowruz Oil Field. The collision caused the platform to tip over and release oil from the well. The well could not be quickly capped in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war. In March, Iraqi helicopters attacked the platform and lit the spill on fire. It would not be capped until Septermber of 1983, after it released over 80 million gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf.
Photo: Chip Hires/Getty Images
5. Kolva River Oil Spill
In February 1994, a leak occurred in an oil pipeline that traveled through Usinsk, Russia. To contain the leak, a dike was built—but it didn’t hold. On October 1, in the cold of the Russian winter, the dike broke. Eighty four million gallons of oil raced across the frozen tundra and eventually settled in the Kolva River. The cleanup took six months. It is the worst oil spill to occur on land.
Photo: Gennady Galperin/Reuters
4. Atlantic Empress Oil Spill
On July 19, 1979, a Greek Ship, the Atlantic Empress, was sailing through dense fog off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago. When the fog cleared, the Empress collided with another Greek ship, the Aegean Captain. The ensuing impact tore holes in the side of both ships. The Aegean Captain did not spill, and made it to the port of Curacao the next day. The Atlantic Empress spill was not containable, and the ship leaked oil for a week, spilling 90 million gallons into the Atlantic Ocean some 400 miles off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago.
Photo: Chip Hires/Getty Images
3. The Ixtoc 1
The Ixtoc 1 well was an exploratory well in the Gulf of Mexico’s Campeche Bay. It suffered an uncontained release of oil and gas (a blowout) on June 3, 1979. The spill was eventually capped nine months later on March, 23 1980—but only after 140 million gallons were released. It is very similar to the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010, but fortunately the Ixtoc 1 well was drilled in water that was only 160 feet deep—making it easier to cap.
Photo: R. Baird
2. Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig holds the world record for the deepest oil well ever drilled, at 35,055 feet (about six miles) in the Tiber Oil field. It also has the distinction of causing the largest oil spill in United States history.
On April 22, 2010, the well had a wellhead blowout, shooting natural gas up the drill pipe to the surface, causing an explosion that killed 11 men. The shear ram designed to seal the well failed, and could not be fired manually days after the explosion.
An estimated 206 million gallons of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days until it was capped on July 15, 2010.
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard/Getty Images
1. Arabian Gulf/Kuwait Spill
Iraq invaded oil-rich neighbor Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein declared that if he were to be evicted form Kuwait by force, Kuwait would burn—and he did just that.
On Jan. 19, 1991, Iraqi troops began to open pipelines, pouring oil into the Persian Gulf. Cargo tankers were spilled into the gulf, and while being pushed back, Iraqi troops set fire to oil wells and pipelines. Between 380 to 520 million gallons of oil was spilled into the Persian Gulf, polluting the coastline of Kuwait and those of its southern neighbors, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Andrew Freeman is a California native with a degree in history from UCLA. He’s covered a wide range of topics for TakePart, but is particularly interested in politics and policy. Email Andrew |@natureofdabeast | TakePart.com