Causes Of The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Environmental Sciences Essay

Exxon Valdez oil spill catastrophe is well-known as one of the largest oil spill catastrophe of all time happened. This study examines the causes and hazards that lead to Exxon Valdez oil spill catastrophe. It besides evaluates the effects of the catastrophe to the economic system, community and environment. The study besides includes methods and advanced attacks to managing and forestalling future oil spill catastrophe.

On March 24, 1989, Exxon Valdez, the two twelvemonth old vas which is 987 pess long, 166 pess broad, 88 pess deep, and weighs 213,755 dozenss struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The tankship has 11 lading armored combat vehicles and was loaded with 53,094,510 gallons of Prudhoe Bay petroleum oil. The incident happened at four proceedingss past midnight. The badness of the foundation caused 8 of the 11 lading armored combat vehicles to rupture unfastened and pierced 3 salt-water ballast armored combat vehicles. Within five hours, over 10.1 million gallons had been spilled, doing record as the largest oil spill in U.S. history. The oil slipperiness has spread over 3000 square stat mis and onto over 350 stat mis of shoreline in Prince William Sound entirely. Damage to the vas was estimated at $ 25 million, the lost lading at $ 3.4 million and the cost of killing of the oil spill was about $ 1.85 billion. The ruinous harm to the environment which adversely affected the Alaskan community would take old ages to retrieve. [ 2 ] [ 4 ]

This study discusses on what causes the Exxon tankship to be grounded. The thorough probe on the incident showed that it was mostly because of human mistake. This study besides examines the impact and effects of the oil spill to the environment, people and other relevant topic. Last, the study deliberates on the methods or attacks taken by Exxon Mobil Corporation to forestall this black oil spill from repeating in their worldwide operation.

Figure 1.0 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Map

2. The Aim & A ; Aims of Exxon Mobil Corporation

Exxon Mobil Corporation aspires to be the competitory in the planetary phase, specifically in the energy industry. Every facet of the corporation ‘s concern is evaluated as they believe in long term sustainability of fiscal, operational, technological and human resources.

2.1 Stockholders

Exxon Mobil Corporation is committed to running the concern productively and responsibly to guarantee go oning return in investing to stockholders. [ 1 ]

2.2 Customers

Exxon Mobil Corporation uses advanced and antiphonal attack when covering with clients to carry through client ‘s different petitions and penchants. They offer high quality merchandises and services at sensible monetary values. [ 1 ]

2.3 Technology

Exxon Mobil Corporation believes in prolonging the universe ‘s turning demand for energy. Continuous research and development of boring machinery, cost effectual fabrication procedures and state-of-the-art installations are the key to their success.

2.4 Employees

Exxon Mobil Corporation values the function and part of the work force to the growing of the company. Therefore, the corporation seeks to use and retain experient professionals. The direction is in favor of a safe working environment and patterns unfastened communicating, trust and equity. [ 1 ]

2.5 Communities

Exxon Mobil Corporation advocates high ethical criterions in their operation around the universe. The corporation will follow with all applicable Torahs, regulations and ordinances every bit good as esteeming the local usage and civilizations. [ 1 ]

2.6 Environment

Exxon Mobil Corporation acknowledges the importance of continuing the environment. The corporation undertakes any attempt to cut down pollution and prevent environmental catastrophe. It is their policy to carefully measure all the hazard factors, environmental impact and effects in day-to-day operation.

3. Oil Refinery Industrial Processes & A ; Operationss

Oil refinement is an industrial procedure where petroleum oil is refined into crude oil merchandises, such as gasolene, Diesel, asphalt, heating oil, kerosine and liquefied crude oil gas. [ 8 ]

3.1 Major Merchandises of Oil Refineries

Product Types/ Forms

Boiling Scope


Liquefied Petroleum Gas

Less than 40A°C

warming, cookery, doing plastics


60A°C to 100A°C



40A°C to 205A°C

motor fuel or gasoline for vehicles


175A°C to 325A°C

fuel for jet engines and tractors

Diesel Fuel

250A°C to 350A°C

fuel for heavy vehicles, heating oil

Lubricating Oil

300A°C to 370A°C

motor oil, lubricating oil, other lubricators

Fuel Oil

370A°C to 600A°C

fuel for ships, mills and cardinal warming

Remainders ( Petroleum coke, asphalt, pitch, paraffin wax )

Greater than 600A°C

wax for boxing frozen nutrients and doing tapers, bitumen for route building

Table 1.0 Petroleum merchandises from rough oil refinery

3.2 Flow Diagram of Typical Refinery Processes

( Flow diagram obtained from hypertext transfer protocol: // % 20Refinery.pdf )

3.3 Physical & A ; Chemical Processes in Oil Refinery





Solvent extraction

Propane deasphalting

Solvent dewaxing



Delayed coking


Table 2.0 Grouping of refinery procedure

( Table obtained from hypertext transfer protocol: // % 20Refinery.pdf )

3.4 Overview of Refining Operations

Crude oil refinement procedures can be divided into five classs:

Fractionation ( Distillation ) Procedure

Conversion Procedure

Decomposition – thermal and catalytic snap

Unification – alkylation and polymerization

Alteration – isomerization and catalytic reforming

Treatment Procedure

Explicating & A ; Blending Procedure

Other Refining Procedure

light-ends recovery

sour-water denudation

solid waste, process-water and effluent intervention

chilling, storage and handling and merchandise motion

H production

acid and tail-gas intervention

sulfur recovery [ 7 ]

4. Causes of Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Disaster

4.1 Fatigue & A ; Excessive Workload

The 3rd mate had deficient sleep the dark before and worked long hours. Deballasting and cargo managing activities during the period where the ship was at the Alyeska terminus kept the 3rd mate busy and he was improbable to hold obtained full remainder. The 3rd mate was covering the main mate ‘s ticker on a 6-hours-on and 6-hours-off footing and besides had to wake up early to alleviate the 2nd mate. In the period of anchoring he might hold every bit small as 5 or 6 hours of slumber. He was working beyond his normal ticker period which leads to his failure to decently steer the vas. [ 4 ] [ 5 ] [ 9 ]

4.2 Alcohol Impairment

The maestro failed to supply a proper pilotage ticker, perchance due to impairment from intoxicant. The maestro was alleged to hold an intoxicant dependence job. A blood trial after the accident confirmed that he get the hang had consumed alcoholic drink while on responsibility. Even though he insisted that he was non impaired by intoxicant and he was acquitted by a jury during a test, he had to be held responsible for he is the captain of the ship. Besides, an ethical and disciplined employee would ne’er devour intoxicant while on responsibility. [ 4 ] [ 5 ] [ 9 ]

4.3 Management Fault & A ; Shortcoming

Exxon Shipping Company failed to oversee the maestro. There are no guidelines for employees that inhibit alcohol/drug abuse while on responsibility. An inducement based on crew public presentation lead to inordinate working hours. For fiscal ground, the direction is unable to supply sufficient Numberss of forces for a proper pilotage ticker. Exxon Transporting Company failed to mend the Raycas radio detection and ranging system, which would hold indicated to the 3rd mate an at hand hit with the Bligh reef. [ 4 ] [ 5 ]

4.4 Coast Guard Failed to Supply Effective Vessel Traffic System

The U.S. Coast Guard failed to supervise and steer the Exxon Valdez ship. The seashore guard failed to reach the crew of the ship to give advice on way and velocity that the vas should hold been going. The radio detection and ranging coverage of oiler traffic was excessively limited to observe the Exxon Valdez foundation. Tanker crews were non told that the old pattern of the Coast Guard tracking ships out to Bligh reef had ceased. [ 4 ] [ 5 ]

4.5 Lack of Effective Pilot & A ; Escort services

The Exxon Valdez ship carries a Marine pilot, an excess captain who knows local Waterss good. During the 1989 oil spill, the pilot completed his work and jumped off the ship onto a little boat at Rocky Point, 10 stat mis abruptly of Bligh Reef where Exxon Valdez ran aground. If he had stayed on the ship, the foundation might non hold happened. In add-on, the bodyguard services were unequal. Merely a individual jerk escorted oil-laden oilers through Valdez Narrows, the tight channel linking Port Valdez to Prince William Sound. The jerk turned back several stat mis abruptly of Bligh Reef, so the Exxon Valdez was unescorted at the clip it ran aground. [ 4 ] [ 5 ]

5. Effectss of Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Disaster

5.1 Environmental Effectss

The oil spill spread to huge country along the seashore and polluted waterways which are the home ground of a figure of birds and marine mammals. Immediate effects of the pollution are the deceases of about 250000 sea birds, 2800 sea otters, 300 seaport seals, 247 bald bird of Joves, 22 killer whale and the devastation of one million millions of salmon and herring eggs. The diminution in population was seen assorted marine wildlife over the old ages, for illustration, the scrawny growing in pink salmon populations. The nutrient concatenation is disrupted by the oil spill. The decrease in prey populations affected slayer giants in Prince William Sound and Alaska ‘s Kenai Fjords part. The oil spill besides destroyed microscopic workss such as phytoplankton and zooplankton. Recovery of the populations of all affected species may take several old ages. [ 2 ]

5.2 Energy Effectss

The chart below shows the grapevine throughput measures that are approximately tantamount to production measures. The decrease of Alaskan rough oil production is about 13 million barrels during the 13-day period before Exxon Valdez was refloated. Since these 13 million barrels are destined for west seashore refiners, that part suffered an addition in retail gasolene monetary values. In the three hebdomads following the spill, there is a impermanent addition in gasolene monetary values. Los Angles topographic point gasolene monetary values rose by 50 cents to $ 1.18 per gallon at their extremum on March 31. Other US provinces reported an mean addition of 10 cents per gallon at both sweeping and retail degrees. The monetary value additions is due to serious concern sing future supply restrictions in oil markets. In the two hebdomads after the spill, rough oil from other bring forthing parts offset west coast rough oil losingss. These accrued petroleum oils at the Valdez terminus more or less compensated for the earlier supply loss. As a consequence, the addition of gasolene monetary values has no permanent effects as production bit by bit retrieve. [ 2 ]

5.3 Effectss on the Alaskan Economy

5.3.1 Commercial Fisheries

Prince William Sound has rich commercial piscaries for Pacific herring and salmon, along with smaller halibut, sablefish, crab, and shrimp piscaries. The commercial piscaries valued around 1000000s will instantly endure losingss as the spill continues to distribute and threatens the marine species in that country. The clean-up attempts might ensue in the shuttings and limitation of certain countries. The State of Alaska, with proficient aid from the Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) , is taking safeguards to guarantee that oil-tainted fish merchandises do non make the market. If consumers avoid Alaskan fish merchandises, the national monetary values for those merchandises may be depressed.

These fishermen immediate losingss are being mitigated by their employment in Exxon ‘s clean-up attempts. Fishermans in the affected country concern non merely on their long-run economic chances, but besides on the hereafter alterations in their support. [ 2 ]

5.3.2 Recreation & A ; Tourism

The oil spill is expected to impact touristry in the affected part of Alaska. Diversion and touristry have been increasing quickly in Prince William Sound over the last 10 old ages. But, the oil spill threatens to interrupt the touristry industry. The impact and permanent effects depend entirely in the velocity and advancement of the clean-up operations. Sport fishing activities, one of the chief attractive forces of Alaska incur immense losingss as a consequence of the oil spill. [ 2 ]

5.4 Health Effectss

5.4.1 Food Safety

All seafood obtained from country affected by the oil spill is non safe for ingestion. Organoleptic testing is being used to find whether fish and shellfish are safe to be consumed. This proving method will find the freshness and presence of volatile oil constituents. The scientists are analyzing the features of petroleum oil, accretion and dissipation of oil constituents in fish and shellfish, and toxicity informations relative to long-run ingestion of oil constituents. [ 2 ]

5.4.2 Occupational Health & A ; Safety

Since the spill, Exxon has employed about 5000 people to clean up oil-covered shoreline. This worker is exposed to wellness hazards when executing the clean-up operations. These hazards include: inspiration exposure to volatile and cuticular exposure to non-volatile, constituents of rough oil ; exposure to chemical dispersants ; emphasis from long hours ; possible physical hurt and hypothermia ; and deficiency of available information about the wellness effects of stuffs being used. [ 2 ]

6. Improvement & A ; Changes in the Exxon Management

6.1 Modified Tanker Routes

All Exxon Mobil ‘s oilers now follow a new realigned path which is much safer. The path is invariably altered harmonizing to conditions and sea conditions. In add-on, the U.S Coast Guard now uses orbiter which is capable of observing oilers at distant scopes. [ 5 ] [ 11 ]

6.2 Improved Vessel Navigation & A ; Tanker Design

Oil tanker now is equipped with better radio detection and ranging system and double-hulled construction. Previously, there is merely one bodyguard vas attach toing each oiler, but now there are two bodyguard vass to help them in the event of exigency. [ 5 ] [ 11 ]

6.3 Instituted Drug & A ; Alcohol Testing Programs

High-responsibility places is now restricted to employees with no history of substance maltreatment.

Introduce harsher protocols for employees and improved alcohol/drug rehabilitation plan by naming specializer. [ 4 ] [ 5 ] [ 11 ]

6.4 Strengthened Training Programs for Vessel Captain & A ; Pilots

Vessel captains and pilots are required to undergo intensive preparation. They are besides invariably being supervised and their public presentation evaluated from clip to clip. [ 4 ] [ 5 ] [ 11 ]

6.5 Implemented Periodic Assessment of Vessels & A ; Facilities

All vass are regularly sent for care and recalibration. In the event there are abnormalities or system failure, the vas must instantly hold its operation until the affair is resolved. [ 5 ] [ 11 ]

6.6 Oil Spill Contingency Planning

Exxon Mobil is a founding member of every major oil spill response centre worldwide. There are overA 1,000 Exxon Mobil employees involved in oil spill response squads worldwide. Extensive oil spill drills are held every twelvemonth in assorted Exxon Mobil locations around the universe. The company besides developed new spill observing engineering. [ 5 ] [ 11 ]

7. Decision

In brief, Exxon Valdez oil spill is a catastrophe that could hold been avoided, if human were non prone to doing error. In fact, other catastrophe go oning around the universe can be attributed to human mistake. The devastation done by the oil spill to the environment, people and economic system of Alaska will take old ages or even decennaries to to the full retrieve. But, one thing for certain is worlds are speedy to accommodate and larn from past error. Exxon Mobil Corporation had taken the necessary actions to relieve the state of affairs and came up with assorted methods to forestall future oil spill.

“ Mistakes are a portion of being human. Appreciate your errors for what they are: cherished life lessons that can merely be learned the difficult manner. Unless it ‘s a fatal error, which, at least, others can larn from. ” ( Al Franken, 2002 )