-Kees Willemse is professor of offshore engineering at Delft University. The opinions expressed are his own.-
Last month’s explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig continues to result in the leakage of an estimated 200,000 gallons (910,000 litres) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day.
According to U.S. President Barack Obama, “we are dealing with a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster”.
While the leak is extremely serious, and Obama’s words may ultimately ring true, the leak is (as yet) not one of the top 50 biggest oil spillages from either oil rigs or tankers in historical perspective:
• Some 7-10,000 tonnes of oil are so far estimated to have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico from Deepwater Horizon.
• The Exxon Valdez leaked some 36,000 tonnes of crude oil on the shores of Alaska.
• The largest ever off-shore leakage of oil occurred in 1979 in the Ixtoc-1 spillage when an estimated 476,000 tonnes of oil polluted the Gulf of Mexico (Bay of Campeche).
• The biggest ever on-shore spillage occurred in the aftermath of the 1991 Iraq War when an estimated 1.4 to 1.5 million tonnes was released in Kuwait by Iraqi military forces.