Onshore And Offshore Oil Spill Containment Treatment Methods

When oil spills occur they are very dangerous for the ecosystem. In a marine setting, lifeforms are threatened and on land, it poses a danger to both humans and animals. During the exploration phase offshore, spills can occur accidentally hence it is important to apply different methods of cleaning. So read on as we dive further into methods of oil spill contamination treatments.


Using Oil Booms

Oil booms are used offshore for cleaning spills. Containment booms are administered and they prevent the oil from spreading further into the sea. However, they float on the seas and they are made up of three parts:

*A freeboard that stays above the water to prevent splashing
*A skirt that usually goes below the surface to prevent oil from being squeezed out
*A stabilizing chain that connects them to ensure that they can fit around the spill


After containing a spill, skimmers are set in motion to remove contaminants from the surface. These machines are specially designed to ensure that the oil is sucked up like in a vacuum. They essentially separate oil from water and they remove most of the oil that was spilt.


These are materials that are used to soak the liquids up. This takes place via adsorption or absorption and they make the process of cleaning much easier. Several materials such as straw, hay, peat moss and vermiculite are used as sorbents.

In-Situ Burning

When oil floats on the surface, it can be ignited and burnt off. This method is responsible for effectively removing up to 98% of spillage. Burning is one of the most effective methods for cleaning up an oil spill. However, if the layer of oil isn’t thick, it can’t be ignited.


If booms fail, rapid disintegration must be done. Agents such as Corexit 9500 are sprayed from boats and planes to accelerate degradation. Dispersants allow the oil to chemically bond with the water molecules and prevents the slick from travelling.

High-Pressure Washing and Hot Water

In the case where skimmers and booms cannot be used, this method is administered. It simply dislodges oil from hard to reach locations. Heaters are used to heat the water up to 170 degrees C and then it is sprayed to flush the oil onto the water’s surface where it can be collected.

Manual Labour

Hand-held tools are used during this process to clean spills. Shovels, rakes and hands are used to clean the surface of the water. Additionally, some equipment can also be used to reach harder spaces. However, this method is more suited to the shoreline.


This process makes use of microorganisms to remove spillage. These include those like fungi, bacteria, algae and archaea to degrade the oil. They break them down until they are non-toxic molecules. In some instances, fertilizers or reagents are added to provide nutrients for the microbes so that they can multiply.

However, this process is quite complex and takes up to a few years before it can have an impact on the spilt area. Previously mentioned methods are better for containment.


After the oil is spilt, it must be contained. Mechanical methods can be effective in containing the oil. However, just like anything else, they all have their limitations. Various compounds are used to confine them as they ensure that the oil is solidified. These are then captured and removed making the process efficient.

Natural Recovery

This process involves the natural elements such as the tides, the wind, the sun, and the weather along with microbes that exist in nature. This is utilized in remote areas or in instances where cleaning a spill is far more dangers than not doing so. When all are combined, oil is eventually broken down into less threatening elements.


In the case of farms and grasslands, things are quite different. Oil needs to be contained at once to prevent plants from dying and contamination of the natural water table. Trenches and berms are used for containing spills on land as long as the oil doesn’t possess the threat of leaching into the underground water source.

However, if danger still lurks, then in-situ burning can be done, removal of contaminated soil and even sorbents. The affected area can also be flooded to skim and vacuum the oil away.

In an urban setting, spills are considered based on how they affect the health of those around them. The spill site is usually dealt with quickly to prevent leaching. Just as in the farm area, trenches and berms are used to contain spills. In some instances, they also flood the area and use skimmers and vacuums as previously mentioned to remove the oil.

Additionally, earthmoving techniques can also be used to recover the soil to dispose of it.

As we conclude, we have just looked at how to contain oil spills onshore and offshore. Most methods can be used for both if they are feasible. Oil spills have the potential to destroy if they aren’t properly dealt with.

Hugh S. Murch

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