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Research Paper on Oil Pollution

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Sample Research Paper on Oil Pollution

Oil pollution has become a major problem nowadays affecting the natural habitat of humans and many animal species. The by-product of human industrial operations, it threatens to disrupt the oceanic environment that makes up more than three-fourths of our planet’s surface. This paper will focus on the causes of pollution, cite major spills as examples of their significance, describe SAS radar imaging as a major oil pollution monitoring method, and discuss clean-up procedures and costs associated with them.

Although we tend to see oil pollution as coming from tankers and major accidents, many industries pollute the world ocean even when their facilities are functioning in their normal mode. We will examine in our paper the extent to which each type of pollution adds to the presence of oil in the ocean. We will then see that despite a wide variety of methods that have been invented to target pollution, the effect on the environment is still unsatisfactory, and natural habitats continue to suffer.

Sources of oil pollution
Most of the pollution in the oceans occurs for reasons totally unconnected with unplanned disasters. Even in the event of normal functioning of all oil-related industrial activities, pollution is not going to vanish.

The graph available from the NASA website vividly demonstrates that large spills account for only a small percentage of annual pollution, injecting a “meagre” 37 million gallons of oil in the world ocean in a year.

The biggest culprit is by far the pollution by runoff from used engine oil that comes after oil changes, “runoff from land and municipal and industrial wastes” in addition to road runoff, together making up 363 million gallons per year (NASA).

In comparison to this source of oil pollution, almost every other looks paltry. Thus, big uncontrolled spill that result after large tanker or other kind of accidents altogether are only the fifth most serious source of ocean oil pollution, accounting for 5% of the oil that yearly ends in the ocean.

Routine maintenance, including bilge cleaning and other ship operations add approximately 137 millions of gallons of oil in the ocean waters annually, leaving a lasting effect on the navigable waters.

Nature itself without human interference accounts for some pollution in its waters. Oil naturally seeps from some deposits at the bottom of the ocean and some of this pollution is caused by the erosion of sedimentary rocks, contributing 62 million gallons.

One more cause is offshore drilling that gives 15 million gallons per year. Oil drilling at its current level of operational safety invariably results in spills and discharges.

Some of the pollution results from hydrocarbons that end in the air from car and other vehicles and then are washed into the oceans due to rain.

Major oil spills
Large-scale oil accidents involved a spill from oil tanker Amoco Cadiz that released about 68.7 million gallons of oil in 1978 near the coast of France.

Another major event was the explosion on the exploratory well Ixtox 1 in 1979. The leakage was only stopped in 1980, and by that time 140 million gallons of oil had already got into the world ocean, accounting for the second largest oil spill in human history (OceanLink).

The biggest oil catastrophe included a series of purposeful oil spills at the end of Kuwait-Iraq war of 1991.

The tanker called Exxon Valdez spilt 10.8 million gallons of oil into the ocean after running on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska on March 24, 1989 (Major oil spills).

Oil pollution detection methods: SAR radar method
Among the methods invented for monitoring oil pollution, ERS SAR imagery has of late been the most widely used. The detection of oil pollution using ERS SAR imagery has a number of advantages. The method allows a broad coverage of water surface and enables the monitoring throughout day and night under any weather conditions.

The SAR method consists in making a number of shots to detect oil slicks from each shot. Later, the occurrence of oil slicks is summarized, and a normalized average oil slick occurrence intensity is calculated “after all the available multi-temporal scenes in an ERS frame have been studied” (Lu et al.). If oil slicks have been determined in great numbers on one of the scenes, this scene is then examined in greater detail. The method uses space-borne synthetic aperture radar (SAR) for the detection of oil pollution in the ocean.

Damage from oil pollution
Oil pollution affects the sustainability of the oceanic natural environment that is important to the preservation of life on Earth as it covers about 75% of the Earth’s surface (Ocean.com). The oil pollution is especially ruinous to particular types of habitats such as mangroves and coral reefs where fresh oil can be found up to five years after a major spill occurs.

Oil getting into the water is dangerous for ocean animals and birds as it ends on their fur and feathers, disrupting their normal thermoregulation mechanisms, causing them to freeze to death. As they try to lick the oil off themselves, they end up eating oil and then die of poisoning. Fish can develop liver problems and other disorders.

Clean-up procedures
The methods developed to clean up the results of oil pollution use a number of different tactics. First, biological oil agents aim at decomposing oil and accelerating its degradation to speed up its exit from the natural environment. Other chemical substances that aim at containing the poisonous substance are oil booms and sorbents that absorb oil.

Skimmers “skim the surface oils in an oil spill while gelling agents react with oil to form solids which can be cleaned up by suction equipment” (OceanLink). Dispersants serve to separate oil into particles. Elbow grease is the most expensive and probably the least efficient method of oil clean-up. This method envisages physical cleaning of the shores by people who use water hoses and clean the animals covered in oil (OceanLink).

Oil clean-ups are estimated to be only 5-15% effective, and the overall cost per 1 gallon of oil spilled is about $10,000.

The main cause of the oil pollution in the ocean is the inadequacy of industrial and other human operations that allow oil to seep into the ocean. Thus, greater precautions need to be taken to block the leakage and discharges at oil-using facilities. These procedures would help to save costs on clean-up procedures and would stand in the way of natural environment disruptions, helping to preserve the flora and fauna of the oceans.

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