Aerial photograph of the #2 Ixtoc 1 oil well spill

The top ten biggest oil spills of all time:

1. Gulf War Oil Spill | 325,000,000 gallons

When Iraqi forces retreated from Kuwait during the first Gulf War, they opened the valves of oil wells and pipelines to try and slow down the advancing American troops.

The resulting oil slick covered an area just larger than the island of Hawaii.

2. Ixtoc 1 Oil Well | 140,000,000 gallons

In June 1979, an oil well in the Bay of Campeche collapsed after a pressure buildup ignited with an explosion.

3. Atlantic Empress | 88,300,000 gallons

In July 1979, two full supertankers collided off the coast of Tobago in the Caribbean Sea, resulting in the largest ship-based oil spill in history. Both vessels began to leak and caught fire.

The fire on the Aegean Captain was quickly subdued, and the damaged vessel was towed to safety.

The Atlantic Empress was not so lucky. The fire could not be quelled, and the vessel was towed out to sea until it exploded 300 miles offshore.

26 crew were killed in the disaster.

4. Fergana Valley | 87,700,000 gallons

Almost 88 million gallons of oil spilled from an oil well in the Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan.

While the spill didn’t receive international recognition when it occurred, it is the largest inland spill ever recorded.

5. Nowruz Oil Field | 80,000,000 gallons

In the midst of the Iran-Iraq War, an oil tanker crashed into the Nowruz Field Platform in the Persian Gulf. The collision disrupted the balance of the platform causing damage to the well underneath.

The oil well leaked around 1500 barrels a day for seven months until the war ended and it could be repaired.

6. ABT Summer | 80,000,000 gallons

While 900 miles off the coast of Angola, the fully loaded tanker ABT Summer experienced an explosion and caught fire.

Encompassed by an oil slick stretching over 80 square miles, the tanker burned for three days before it sank.

7. Castillo de Bellver | 78,500,000 gallons

The tanker Castillo de Bellver caught fire about 70 miles northwest of Capetown, South Africa.

The smoldering vessel was abandoned and left to drift offshore until it eventually broke in half. The stern capsized and sank into the deep ocean, with around 73m gallons of oil remaining in its tanks.

8. Amoco Cadiz | 68,700,000 gallons

During a severe storm, the steering failed on the tanker Amoco Cadiz causing it to run aground off the coast of Brittany.

Its entire cargo was deposited into the English Channel.

9. Odyssey Oil Spill | 43,000,000 gallons

In November 1988 the Liberian tanker Odyssey caught fire, split in two, and sank in the North Atlantic 700 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia.

10. M/T Haven Tanker | 42,000,000 gallons

Poor maintenance was blamed when the tanker exploded off the coast of Italy.

After the incident, the Italian government attempted to tow the Haven to shore. The effort failed and the 820-foot-long vessel sunk off the coast of Genoa. It is believed to be the largest shipwreck in the world and is a popular tourist destination for divers.

The accident killed six people.


How much oil is that?

These top ten oil spills combined total 1,033,200,000 gallons of oil.

With today’s prices, the value of just the oil lost in these accidents was $107,000,000,000.


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