An aerial view shows oil that seeped from a well operated by Chevron at Frade, on the waters in Campos Basin in Rio de Janeiro state November 18, 2011.

Spill control and cleanup are an important part of the spill mitigation plans for oil/gas production. Proper and robust spill control and cleanup plan is vital in protecting and minimizing spill's damages to the environments.

Oil spill


The global risk profile of oil spills is continually changing. As the exploration production activities expand to previously unexplored fields in remote and sensitive environments, there are new risks and challenges that need to be addressed. Many countries, as well as the oil and gas industry, have put in place stringent safety measures to counter the inherent risks associated with these activities. But even with these sophisticated safety measures in place, the risk of oil spill remains and despite every endeavor to prevent them, oil spills can still happen. This underlines the need to address the risk and have appropriate response capability in the event of an incident.

An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. The term is usually applied to marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean, but spills may also occur on land. Oil spills may be due to releases of crude oil from tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs and wells, as well as spills of refined petroleum products (gasoline, diesel) and their by-products, heavier fuels used by large ships such as bunker fuel, or the spill of any oily refuse or waste oil.[1]

Chemical spill

A chemical spill is a situation in which a chemical is accidentally released. In the case of non-toxic chemicals, dealing with a spill is usually very straightforward, since the spill simply needs to be cleaned up. However, spills of toxic chemicals represent a more serious problem, especially in the case of spills of multiple chemicals which could react with each other. Many nations have specific laws concerning large-scale chemical spills such as the release of chemicals from a damaged chemical tanker.

There are a number of things which can cause a chemical spill. In a laboratory, a dropped beaker, piece of malfunctioning equipment, or poorly handled package of chemicals can potentially cause a spill. On a larger scale, chemicals can be spilled in train and auto accidents involving chemical tankers, or they can be released by seagoing ships or aircraft. Chemical plants can also cause spills with imperfect safety procedures, accidents, or deliberate dumping of chemicals. Most governments treat large scale spills as the responsibility of the person who caused them, rather than the manufacturer of the chemical.[2]

Causes of Oil Spills

Oil spills are one of the major concerns of the up- and downstream oil industry. Although land operations do not cause spill accidents and volumes like offshore, the damage and the loss in public credibility is severe and longterm. Oil Spills may happen for several reasons.

  • When oil tankers have equipment faults. When oil tankers break down, it may get stuck on shallow land. When the tanker is attempted to move out of shallow land, abrasion may cause a hole in the tanker that will lead to large amounts of oil being released into the oceanic bodies. However, although this form of oil spill is the most commonly known and has the highest media attention, only 2% of oil in water bodies is a result of this action.
  • From nature and human activities on land. The large majority of oil spilled is from natural seeps geological seeps from the ocean floor as well as leaks that occur when products using petroleum or various forms of oil are used on land, and the oil is washed off into water bodies.
  • Water Sports. Other causes of oil spills are spills by petroleum users of released oil. This happens when various water sports or water vehicles such as motorboats and jet skis leak fuel.
  • Drilling works carried out in sea. When drilling works carried out in the sea, the oil and petroleum used for such activities are released into the sea, thus causing an oil spill.
  • Leakage of oil transporting pipe line or leakage during the pipe line operations in offshore. [3][4]

How Do Oil Spills Damage the Environment?

There are many and varied factors related to oil, biota, and the environment. And because individually or in combination those factors produce a highly complex situation, it is impossible to predict, except in produce a highly complex situation, it is impossible to predict, except in a general way, the impact of an oil spill. Oil spills often result in both immediate and long-term environmental damage. Some of the environmental damage caused by an oil spill can last for decades after the spill occurs. Here are some of the most notable environmental damages typically caused by oil spills are Beaches, Marshlands and Fragile Marine Ecosystems.

Oil spilled by damaged tankers, pipelines or offshore oil rigs coats everything it touches and becomes an unwelcome but long-term part of every ecosystem it enters. When an oil slick from a large oil spill reaches the beach, the oil coats and clings to every rock and grain of sand. If the oil washes into coastal marshes, mangrove forests or other wetlands, fibrous plants and grasses absorb the oil, which can damage the plants and make the whole area unsuitable as wildlife habitat.

When some of the oil eventually stops floating on the surface of the water and begins to sink into the marine environment, it can have the same kind of damaging effects on fragile underwater ecosystems, killing or contaminating many fish and smaller organisms that are essential links in the global food chain.

The biological damage caused by an oil spill will be governed by a combination of several factors including:

  1. The type of oil spilled
  2. The dose of oil
  3. The physiographic of the area of the spill
  4. Weather conditions at the time of the spill
  5. The biota of the area
  6. The season of the spill
  7. Previous exposure of the area to oil
  8. Exposure to other previous exposure of the area to oil
  9. Exposure to other pollutants
  10. The treatment of the spill

Oil Spills Kill Birds


Oil-covered birds are practically a universal symbol of the environmental damage wreaked by oil spills. Any oil spill in the ocean is a death sentence for sea birds. Some species of shore birds may escape by relocating if they sense the danger in time, but sea birds that swim and dive for their food are sure to be covered in oil. Oil spills also damage nesting grounds, which can have serious long-term effects on entire species. The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil spill in the Gulf of México, occurred during prime mating and nesting season for many bird and marine species, and the long-term environmental consequences of that spill won't be known for many years. Oil spills can even disrupt migratory patterns by contaminating areas where migrating birds normally stop.

Even a small amount of oil can be deadly to a bird. By coating the feathers, oil not only makes it impossible for birds to fly but also destroys their natural waterproofing and insulation, leaving them vulnerable to hypothermia or overheating. As the birds frantically try to preen their feathers to restore their natural protections they often swallow some of the oil, which can severely damage their internal organs and lead to death. The Exxon Valdez oil spill killed somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 seabirds, plus a number of shore birds and bald eagles.

Oil Spills Kill Marine Mammals

Oil spills frequently kill marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, seals and sea otters. The deadly damage can take several forms. The oil sometimes clogs the blow holes of whales and dolphins, making it impossible for the animals to breathe properly and disrupting their ability to communicate. Oil coats the fur of otters and seals, leaving them vulnerable to hypothermia.

Even when marine mammals escape the immediate effects, an oil spill can cause damage by contaminating their food supply. Marine mammals that eat fish or other food that has been exposed to an oil spill may be poisoned by the oil and die or can experience other problems.

Oil Spills Kill Fish


Oil spills often take a deadly toll on fish, shellfish and other marine life, particularly if large numbers of fish eggs or larvae are exposed to the oil. The shrimp and oyster fisheries along the Louisiana coast were among the first casualties of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil spill. Similarly, the Exxon Valdez oil spill destroyed billions of salmon and herring eggs. Those fisheries still have not recovered.

Oil Spills Destroy Wildlife Habitat and Breeding Grounds

The long-term damage to various species, and to the habitat and nesting or breeding grounds those species depend upon for their survival, is one of the most far-reaching environmental effects caused by oil spills. Even many species that spend most of their lives at sea—such as various species of sea turtles—must come ashore to nest. Sea turtles can be harmed by oil they encounter in the water or on the beach where they lay their eggs, the eggs can be damaged by the oil and fail to develop properly, and newly hatched young turtles may be oiled as they scurry toward the ocean across an oily beach.

Ultimately, the severity of environmental damages caused by a particular oil spill depends on many factors, including the amount of the oil spilled, the type and weight of the oil, the location of the spill, the species of wildlife in the area, the timing or breeding cycles and seasonal migrations, and even the weather at sea during and immediately after the oil spill. But one thing never varies: oil spills are always bad news for the environment.[5]

Methods for Oil and Chemical Spill Cleanup at Sea

Oil spills are a very dangerous occurrence for marine ecosystem is affected and the marine life-forms’ existence gets unnecessarily threatened. Since exploration of oil from oceanic resources has become a must and oil spills end up occurring accidently, as a result, it becomes important to employ various oil spill cleanup methods

There are different methodologies that can be adopted for the purpose of cleaning up oil spills. Some of the few important and commonly used methods can be explained as follows:

Using Oil Booms


Oil booms are a very popular method of controlling oil spills. There are various kinds of oil booms that have been designed for various areas where the oil spillage might occur, leading to a quite thorough oil spill cleanup.

Containment booms are used to control the spread of oil to reduce the possibility of polluting shorelines and other resources, as well as to concentrate oil in thicker surface layers, making recovery easier. In addition, booms may be used to divert and channel oil slicks along desired paths, making them easier to remove from the surface of the water.

Although there is a great deal of variation in the design and construction of booms, all generally share four basic characteristics:

  • An above-water freeboard to contain the oil and to help prevent waves from splashing oil over the top of the boom
  • A flotation device
  • A below-water skirt to contain the oil and help reduce the amount of oil lost under the boom
  • A longitudinal support, usually a chain or cable running along the bottom of the skirt, that strengthens the boom against wind and wave action; may also serve as a weight or ballast to add stability and help keep the boom upright

Booms can be divided into several basic types. Fence booms have a high freeboard and a flat flotation device, making them least effective in rough water, where wave and wind action can cause the boom to twist. Round or “curtain” booms have a more circular flotation device and a continuous skirt. They perform well in rough water, but are more difficult to clean and store than fence booms. Non-rigid inflatable booms come in many shapes. They are easy to clean and store, and they perform well in rough seas. However, they tend to be expensive, more complicated to use, and puncture and deflate easily. All boom types are greatly affected by the conditions at sea; the higher the waves swell, the less effective booms become.

Booms can be fixed to a structure, such as a pier or a buoy, or towed behind or alongside one or more vessels. When stationary or moored, the boom is anchored below the water surface.

It is necessary for stationary booms to be monitored or tended due to changes produced by shifting tides, tidal currents, winds, or other factors that influence water depth and direction and force of motion. People must tend booms around the clock to monitor and adjust the equipment.

Generally, booms will not operate properly when waves are higher than one meter or currents are moving faster than one knot per hour. However, new technologies, such as submergence plane booms and entrainment inhibitors, are being developed that will allow booms to operate at higher speeds while retaining more oil.[6]

Using Sorbents


Sorbents mean sponges that are placed on the surface of the spillage affected area. These sorbents suck and absorb the oil from the surface of the water leading to an oil spill cleanup.

Materials that are capable of absorbing many times their weight in oil can be used to wipe up oil from contaminated shorelines. These materials are often designed as large squares, much like paper towels, or shaped into “mops.” The squares or mops are used to wipe the shoreline or oily rocks during which time the absorbents are filled with as much oil as they can hold.

There are advantages to the use of absorbents. They can be used to clean up any kind of oil on any shoreline that can be reached by response personnel. The use of absorbents is generally not harmful to the shoreline itself or to the organisms that live on it, and no material is left behind following the cleanup effort. Some sorbents are reusable, reducing the need for disposal after a spill.

Wiping with absorbent materials requires the use of a large quantity of material and several personnel. Personnel must wear proper protective clothing to minimize direct contact with the oil as they are removing it. Oil-filled absorbents and protective clothing that are used by response personnel must be properly disposed of following cleanup, which can be costly. In addition, the intrusion of many people onto an isolated shoreline may disrupt animal behaviors such as breeding or nesting.

The following characteristics must be considered when choosing sorbents for cleaning up spills:

Rate of absorption

The rate of absorption varies with the thickness of the oil. Light oils are soaked up more quickly than heavy ones.

Oil retention

The weight of recovered oil can cause a sorbent structure to sag and deform. When it is lifted out of the water, it can release oil that is trapped in its pores. During recovery of absorbent materials, lighter, less viscous oil is lost through the pores more easily than heavier, more viscous oil.

Ease of application

Sorbents may be applied to spills manually or mechanically, using blowers or fans. Many natural organic sorbents that exist as loose materials, such as clay and vermiculite, are dusty, difficult to apply in windy conditions, and potentially hazardous if inhaled.

Natural inorganic sorbents include clay, perlite, vermiculite, glass, wool, sand, and volcanic ash. They can absorb from 4 to 20 times their weight in oil. Inorganic substances, like organic substances, are inexpensive and readily available in large quantities. Synthetic sorbents include man-made materials that are similar to plastics, such as polyurethane, polyethylene, and nylon fibers. Most synthetic sorbents can absorb as much as 70 times their weight in oil, and some types can be cleaned and reused several times. Synthetic sorbents that cannot be cleaned after they are used can present difficulties because they must be stored temporarily until they can be disposed of properly.[7]

Burning In-situ


In simple terms, this means burning of the oil on the site where the spillage has occurred. The burning has to be done quite promptly before the oil spill can spread to a larger area. But the most important disadvantage of such an on-site burning is that the exhaust that is released contains toxic particles that can cause damage to the oceanic air in addition to the marine life-forms.[8]

Using dispensers

This method involves using fertilizers to disperse the oil spillage in the water. Even though the method sounds and looks unconventional, it is one of the highly recommended oil spill cleanup methods. The fertilizers help to hasten the growth of micro-organisms which help to diffuse the components of the oil spilt in the water.



A skimmer is a device for recovery of spilled oil from the water’s surface. Skimmers may be self-propelled and may be used from shore or operated from vessels. The efficiency of skimmers depends on weather conditions. In moderately rough or choppy water, skimmers tend to recover more water than oil. Three types of skimmers weir, oleophilic, and suction are described below.

Each type offers advantages and drawbacks, depending on the type of oil being cleaned up, the conditions of the sea during cleanup efforts, and the presence of ice or debris in the water.

Weir skimmers use a dam or enclosure positioned at the oil/water interface. Oil floating on top of the water will spill over the dam and be trapped in a well inside, bringing with it as little water as possible, the trapped oil and water mixture can then be pumped out through a pipe or hose to a storage tank for recycling or disposal. These skimmers are prone to becoming jammed and clogged by floating debris.

Oleophilic (oil-attracting) skimmers use belts, disks, or continuous mop chains of oleophilic materials to blot the oil from the water surface. The oil is then squeezed out or scraped off into a recovery tank. Oleophilic skimmers have the advantage of flexibility, allowing them to be used effectively on spills of any thickness. Some types, such as chain or “rope-mop” skimmers, work well on water that is choked with debris or rough ice.

A suction skimmer operates like a household vacuum cleaner. Oil is sucked up through wide floating heads and pumped into storage tanks. Although suction skimmers are generally very efficient, they are vulnerable to becoming clogged by debris and require constant skilled observation. Suction skimmers operate best on smooth water where oil has collected against a boom or barrier.[9]

Pressure washing


In this method, huge force of the hot water is used to push the oil spilt back into the water. Then with the help of the skimming tools and equipments, the oil spill cleanup operation takes place.

Pressure washing involves rinsing oiled shorelines and rocks using hoses that supply low- or high-pressure water streams. Hot or cold water can be used to create these streams. The oil is flushed from the shoreline into plastic-lined trenches, then collected with sorbent materials and disposed of properly. Since many river banks, and some lakes, have vegetation extending down into or growing in the water, plants may have to be cleaned or removed. Depending on the type of oil, low-pressure washing will usually remove most of the oil from the vegetation. In a marine ecosystem, high-pressure washing usually does more harm than good by driving the oil deeper into the beach and by killing many of the organisms on the beach. Additionally, high-pressure water streams can accelerate bank erosion and dislodge organisms, such as algae and mussels, from the rocks and sediments on which they live, or can force oil deeper into sediments, making cleanup more difficult. Pressure washing has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive and simple to apply; however, it requires many people.

Raking or Bulldozing

When oil moves downward into the sands or between pebbles and cobbles on a shoreline, it becomes more difficult to remove. If the oil has moved downward only a short distance, tilling or raking the sand can increase evaporation of the oil by increasing its exposure to air and sunlight. If the oil has penetrated several inches into the sand, bulldozers may be brought in to remove the upper layers of sand and pebbles. This allows the oil to be exposed so it can be collected and removed from the site, washed with pressure hoses, or left to degrade naturally.

Raking and bulldozing are simple methods for helping to remove oil that might otherwise escape into sediments. However, these methods can disturb both the natural shape of the shoreline and the plant and animal species that live on and in the sediments. In addition, the use of bulldozers requires specially trained operators who can maneuver them without damaging the shoreline unnecessarily; raking and tilling are time-consuming and require many people.

Using Technological aid

By using cranes and tractors, the oil spillage area in beaches and coastal areas can be cleaned. If it is not possible to carry out the oil spill cleanup operation, there itself they can be taken to labs and other equipped areas where the oil spill can be separated from the sand and other items generally found in the beaches and coastal areas.

Using natural methods

The simplest method of dealing with the oil spill cleanup operation is to make use of the components of nature like the sun, the wind, the weather and the tides. The particles of the oil spill, in due course of time evaporate because of the constancy of these elements. This also forms the most cost efficient and the slowest method of cleaning up oil spills.

Using Manual labor

People in the coastal areas and beaches can help to accelerate the oil spill cleanup operation. By using simple tools like spades and shovels, removing and isolating the area affected by oil spillage is possible.

With the help of these methods of oil spill cleanup, the task and its hugeness do not affect the optimism of the person. Just like one makes use of the broom, these methods are adopted to clean affected and problematic areas at a much higher level. However it can be hoped that since many shipping companies are getting aware of the risks and problems caused to the oceanic atmosphere, the requirement of such oil spill cleanup methods will reduce in the days to come. [10][11]

What is An Oil Spill Kit?


The best hands-on way to tackle an oil spill problem is to use an oil spill kit. An oil spill kit comes with the necessary items to counteract and stop the spilled oil from creating a larger undesirable effect on the floors and in case of waters, spreading to a wider range.

An oil spill kit comes in various sizes which are designed keeping in mind the reach of the spilled oil and the quantity that will be required to solve the oil spill problem. Devising such a method is good thinking because when it comes to an oil spill problem, no one can actually be sure about the exact quantity of remedial measures to be used. The least amount of an oil spill kit that is available in the market is about seven liters while the maximum capacity one is of about 476 liters.

An oil spill kit contains the following items – suitable spill solving apparatus like absorbent mats and dust-pans, protective overalls, waste- bags, oil splash goggles, gloves and vinyl or rubber shoe covers to protect the user from the harmful effects of the spilled material, which could even include acids and other toxic substances which could be present in the spilled area.

Absorbent Pads these come in three type’s general purpose, oil spill only (white) and chemical spill (yellow). For most people the oil spill only are fine. If you think you might spill battery acid now and again you can just use your organic absorbent. If you may wish to stand batteries on benches then get 20 chemical pads thrown into the kits or buy a small portable bund just to be sure.

Oil Boom in terms of a spill a gas is more difficult to deal with than a liquid and a liquid is more difficult to handle than a solid. Most often a gas can’t be seen and it is very difficult when it comes to spill response and secondary containment. An oil spill can be seen, so if you have a ‘sock’ or an ‘oil boom’ (the big sausage things) you spill containment becomes a simple matter of surround the liquid and stop it getting to places you don’t want it to get to (e.g. down a drain).

In such situations, an oil spill kit is the final answer to immediate tackling of the marine oil spill problem before precious marine flora and fauna can get adversely affected. And in recent times, it is indeed an oil spill kit that is helping nations to cleanse the damage causing spilled oil on the oceanic and sea waters.

An oil spill kit is an effective, labor reducing method of solving one of the most problematic issues. From spilled oil at homes or at offices, where the carpets and the flooring can become dirty and marked to a much higher scale problem to marine life being in jeopardy, having a handy oil spill kit is like saving the day. Sometimes accidents do happen and when it does, the best thing to do is to take care of it in the most adept manner possible. An oil spill is like an accident, which cannot be averted most of the time which is why having an oil spill kit handy to cure the accident is the best bet that is available, in such situations.[12]

The Unique Oil Spill Containment Dome Used for BP Oil Spill

As an oil spill containment measure, there has been devised an excellent but rarely used method to contain the oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in April last year. Known as the Oil Spill Containment Dome, the equipment has been launched to clean up the oil spill mess caused in one of the BP oil rigs, which has already led to a huge casualty happening to the marine eco-system.

It is said that the dome as an oil spill containment measure can help to contain around 85% of the oil leaking from the oil rig and thereby staunch the casualty caused to the marine eco-system. When it comes to the dome containment, it has to be noted that this is the very first time in the history of shipping and rigging operations that a dome containment facility is launched so deep into the oceanic water. Since the incident that happened in one of the many BP oil rigs occurred very deep into the sea, in order to prevent further leaking of the oil, something different had to be tried. By using the oil spill containment dome 5000 meters deep into the seabed, there is a high possibility that the precious loss not just to British Petroleum oil but also to the marine eco-system can be curtailed.

Understanding Oil Spill Containment Dome

The dome as an oil spill containment equipment is a steel structure weighing around 98-tons and measuring around 40 feet in lengthwise, 24 feet width wise and 14 feet depth wise. Additionally, it also has flaps in its base so as to prevent it from sinking deep into the bed of the sea while it carries out the oil spill containment procedure.

The dome is built in such a way that while it helps to recover the copiously and continuously spilling oil from one of the many BP oil rigs it also provides for sea water and methanol to be put in the leaking rig so as to prevent the formation of crystallization or hydrates as they are called. These hydrates have the potential to cause more damage than the actual spilling of the British Petroleum oil in the oceanic water, which is why there is a need for a counter-active mechanism to prevent them from being formed and harming the eco-system further. The oil spill containment dome acts as a counter-active mechanism, thereby fulfilling a twosome responsibility of recovering and containing the oil spill while at the same preventing other repercussions to the oceanic area and eco-system.

The oil thus recovered and contained with the help of the oil spill containment is then transferred to a drillship and further treated so as to separate the water and gases (that lead to the formation of hydrates) from the oil before finally taken to a naval vessel set aside specifically for the purpose of storing the recovered oil from the BP oil rigs. [13][14]

Choosing proper method for clean up

Oil spills


Because oil spilled onto the water's surface quickly weathers and becomes difficult to work with, there's usually little or no time for spill responders to research less familiar countermeasures such as solidifiers, dispersants, shoreline pretreatment agents, and elasticity modifiers. For this reason, responders rely heavily on more familiar technology such as booms and skimmers.

And there are many factors for choosing proper cleaning methods like type of oil spill, amount of oil spilled, weather conditions of location spilled, physical and chemical conditions of oil like temperature, pour point ,emulsion forming etc.

For selecting proper method for cleaning up spills US Environmental protection agency developed “The online Selection Guide for Oil Spill Response Countermeasures” which consider all the above factors mentioned

The Selection Guide provides detailed information about 10 categories of less-familiar response technologies, as well as data about the products within those categories. It also provides a step-by-step, automated process for determining which products might be useful in given oil spill situation.

Select Technologies for a Response:

Following website guides in choosing a better technology in case of an oil spill

Selection Guide for Oil Spill Response Countermeasures

Here you need to describe your response using the menus and checkboxes below to learn which applied technologies (products and strategies) may be most appropriate to consider further, and which may be least appropriate. First select the environment where the response is taking place, and then indicate the conditions of the response. Note that the choices you make on this page do NOT account for zones of jurisdiction.[15]

Chemical spills

Chemical spills and accidents need to be minimized as much as possible. If a chemical spill should occur, a quick response with a stocked chemical spill kit will help minimize potential harm to personnel, equipment and laboratory space. In spite of our best efforts, spills happen. When they do, it makes sense to respond to them as carefully and efficiently as possible. If handled properly, a spill may be nothing more than a nuisance. If handled improperly, a spill can seriously disrupt your activities and the work.

Majority of chemical spills can be prevented or minimized by:

  • Maintaining a neat and organized work area.
  • Performing a laboratory procedure review prior to conducting new experimental procedures.
  • Storing liquid chemicals in secondary containment bins.
  • Keeping reagent chemical containers sealed or closed at all times, except when removing contents.
  • Ordering reagent chemicals in plastic or plastic coated glass containers whenever possible.
  • Using secondary containment to store and move chemicals.

Specific Chemical Spills

Generally the following can be applied:-

Organic Material

Use vermiculate to absorb and placed spent vermiculite in labeled bag for waste collection.

Acid spills

Should be neutralized with sodium bicarbonate. Spill Kits contain soda ash (sodium Bicarbonate) which can be sprinkled liberally over the spill. Avoid breathing soda ash dust.

Alkali spills

Can be neutralized with boric acid.

Mercury spills

Which are small, should be removed with a mercury sponge or vacuumed up with a suction flask or dusted with sulphur powder. Clean up the mercury thoroughly, because mercury vapors from fine droplets are highly toxic. Once the Mercury is contained it should be clearly labeled and submitted for waste disposal.

Hazardous spills

Exposure to hazardous chemicals that have been spilled or released can cause serious or even fatal injury. In the event of such an incident the emergency services will identify the nature and level of danger and tell the public what to do.

You may be asked either to remain in the protection of your home or workplace and seal windows and doors, or to evacuate the area. If the chemicals have a higher density than air, emergency services may ask you to move to higher ground

You should NOT clean up a spill if:

  • You don’t know what the spilled material is
  • You lack the necessary protection or equipment to do the job safely
  • The spill is too large to contain
  • The spilled material is highly toxic
  • You feel any symptoms of exposure

Chemical Spills Kit

All laboratories have a spill kit available to deal with spills. The kit may include:

  • Polypropylene or high-density polyethylene bucket with top – (5 gallon or larger)
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) – (safety eyewear, gloves, etc.)
  • Tools – (chemical resistant, no sparking (plastic) dustpan or scoop and brush, etc.)
  • Inert absorbents – (vermiculite, sand, clay, absorbent socks or pillows, etc.)
  • Neutralizing and treatment materials – (type and quantity are dependent on the laboratory’s chemicals)
  • Chemical resistant bags
  • Hazardous waste tags

Recommended Spill Control Material Inventory

Your laboratory or work area should have access to sufficient quantity of absorbents or other types of materials to control any spill that can be reasonably anticipated. Vermiculite, lined 5-gallon pails and limited spill control materials are available at the loading docks of Lewis Thomas Lab, Frick, and E-Quad. Additional materials may be found in certain laboratories and the chemical stockrooms.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • 2 pairs chemical splash goggles
  • 2 pairs of gloves (recommend Silver Shield or 4H)
  • 2 pairs of shoe covers

Absorption Materials

  • 4 3M POWERSORB spill pillows (or equivalent)
  • 1 3M POWERSORB spill sock
  • 2 DOT pails (5 gallon) with polyethylene liners
    • 1 filled with loose absorbent, such as vermiculite or clay
    • 1 with minimum amount of loose absorbent in the bottom

Neutralizing Materials

  • Acid Neutralizer
  • Caustic Neutralizer
    • Commercial neutralizers, such as Neutrasorb (for acids) and Neutracit-2 (for bases) have built in color change to indicate complete neutralization
  • Solvent Neutralizer
    • Commercial solvent neutralizers, such as Solusorb, act to reduce vapors and raise the flashpoint of the mixture

Mercury Spills

  • Small mercury vacuum to pick up large drops (optional)
  • Hg Absorb Sponges - amalgamate mercury residue
  • Hg Absorb Powder - amalgamates mercury
  • Hg Vapor Absorbent - reduces concentration of vapor in hard to reach areas
  • Mercury Indicator - powder identifies presence of mercury

Clean-up Tools

  • Polypropylene scoop or dust pan
  • Broom or brush with polypropylene bristles
  • 2 polypropylene bags, sealing tape,
  • pH test papers
  • Waste stickers [16]

How to Prepare for an Oil and Chemical Spill

Contact your local emergency management office to find out how the public will be notified in the event of oil and chemical spill incident and the actions the public must take in the event of a hazardous release.

Listen to local radio or television stations for detailed information and instructions. Follow the instructions carefully. You should stay away from the area to minimize the risk of contamination. Remember that some toxic chemicals are odorless.

  • Alert people in immediate area of the spill.
  • Determine the chemical nature of the spill and check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
  • If a volatile, toxic or flammable material is spilled, immediately warn everyone to evacuate the area, and turn off all electrical and spark producing equipment if possible.
  • Use a fire extinguisher to extinguish any flames if applicable. [17]

Preventing Oil spills

Emergency response plans

This entails that oil transporters/tankers have detailed written plans on what actions they will take if a spill occurs. These plans must have been written out before transporting oil.

Double hulls

The law states that all ships transporting hulls must have double hulls before 2015. Double hulls reduce the possibility of oil spills during transport by 60% has compared to single hull ships.

Spill funds

This law specifies that Oil companies pay certain amounts to the government so that in case of a spill, the government can pay for a clean up.


The law states that the Coast Guard must know where oil tankers can navigate through without a spill occurring and enforcing it.

In a country like Nigeria, the Government should pay more attention to the activities of militants engaged in oil bunkering as some of the spills in the oil rich region occur due to this. In addition, Government should ensure that regulatory bodies have the authority to sanction oil companies who spill oil in the region. More and stricter laws with stiffer penalties should be passed so that oil companies are more mindful of their activities and the spills that they cause. Nigeria is highly dependent on oil as a means of foreign exchange and revenue. The government is unlikely to want to discourage the presence of foreign oil companies that drill for oil in the oil rich region despite the spills that their activities cause. A shift from the dependence on oil to other sources of revenue such as agriculture will make it more likely for stricter laws and stiffer penalties for organizations guilty of oil spills to be implemented. [17]


  2. Modeling the Transport of Hazardous Chemicals Spilt at Sea by S. A. Carr, I. C. Rae, E. M. Stamps and M. D. Unsworth, Sicon Limited SPE Doc ID: AUTOE-v12-205
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  6. Cleanup of Offshore Emulsion Spill, an Experimental Approach by Abdulrazag Y. Zekri, SPE, Omar Chaalal, and Mamdouh Ghannam, United Arab Emirates University SPE DOC ID 111293-MS
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  9. SOCK Skimmer - Performance and Field Tests by John P. Fraser and L.M.C. Clark, Shell Oil Co. Doc ID 4417-MS
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  11. Clean-Up of Oil Pollution at Sea and on Coasts by L. R. Beynon, (British Petroleum Research Centre, Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex, U.K.) Doc ID 16536
  12. How to Make and Use an Oil Spill Kit
  13. BP asks to abandon plugged containment dome on bottom of Gulf of Mexico
  14. BP puts containment dome on gushing oil geyser
  15. Office of Response and Restoration - Selection Guide for Oil Spill Response Countermeasures
  16. Guide for Chemical Spill Response Planning in Laboratories
  17. 17.0 17.1 Oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Program resources