OR&R's Emergency Response Division (ERD) supports emergency response activities for oil and hazardous chemical spills in coastal waters. Each year, these scientists and support staff offer their technical expertise in response to 150-200 incidents, the majority of which are oil spills. Some of these originate from leaking oil pipelines or vessel collisions, while others can result from hurricanes or drilling well blowouts, as in the case of the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.
Get a feel for OR&R's work in this sampling of recent spill responses that ERD has supported:
Deepwater Horizon/BP Oil Spill: On April 20, 2010, the Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Deepwater Horizon caught fire and later sank in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 50 miles offshore of Louisiana. Spill control systems including the blow-out preventer failed and resulted in an 89-day release of crude oil, ultimately becoming the largest spill in U.S. history.
Adak Petroleum Tank Release: On January 11, 2010, up to 142,000 gallons of #2 diesel fuel was released from a 4.8 million gallon underground tank at the Adak Petroleum Bulk Fuel facility on Adak Island in the central Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Fuel was being transferred from a tanker at the adjacent loading dock, when the tank was overfilled. The containment sump unit was overwhelmed and the fuel entered Helmet Creek, which flows into the small boat harbor in the Port of Adak. Most of the diesel was confined to the creek, but more than a thousand gallons may have flowed out to Sweeper Cove.
Eugene Island Pipeline Spill: On July 26, 2009, oil was observed approximately 33 miles offshore and 60 miles southwest of Houma, Louisiana. The oil was subsequently identified as coming from a leak from the Eugene Island Pipeline System. An estimated 63,000 gallons of oil was released. Pre-approved dispersant was applied to the heaviest concentrations of the spill and a significant amount of skimming was done. In addition to identifying resources at risk, ERD provided trajectories and coordinated monitoring for efficacy of the dispersant application.
Hurricanes Gustav and Ike: On September 1, 2008, Hurricane Gustav made landfall on the Louisiana coast, reaching into Florida with destructive rain bands and tornadoes. Only two weeks later, on September 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall during the early morning hours in the Galveston/Houston area of Texas. ERD provided scientific support to the USCG, EPA and FEMA in responding to the numerous incidents generated as a result of the storms.
Barge DM932: On July 23, 2008, the T/V Tintomara collided with the tug/barge (M/V Mel Oliver and DM932 near downtown New Orleans, Louisiana. The barge was ripped in half and spilled 283,000 gallons of fuel, closing the Mississippi River to shipping for six days. Over the next several months, ERD supported the incident operations, providing science coordination, trajectory forecasts, and shoreline and cleanup assessments. Operations were temporarily halted during the passage on September 1, 2008 of Hurricane Gustav and, subsequently, Hurricane Ike. (You can watch a short video about NOAA OR&R's response to this spill.)
M/V Cosco Busan: The container ship M/V Cosco Busan struck the Bay Bridge in San Francisco Bay, California on November 7, 2007. An approximate 100-foot gash in the hull of the vessel resulted, and 58,000 gallons of fuel oil (IFO 380) was released into the water. NOAA's ERD staff responded, providing trajectory forecasts of oil movement, consultation on cleanup techniques, shoreline assessments, and coordination of weather forecasts and other science activities.
R/R Cougar Ace: On July 23, 2006, the Cougar Ace, a 654-foot container ship transporting over 4,800 automobiles from Japan to Vancouver, Canada, began to take on water for an unknown reason about 245 nautical miles southwest of Atka, Alaska and started to list to its port side. A sheen was reported about two miles in length, emanating from the vessel. The crew of 23 was rescued by U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard helicopters. After floating around in the North Pacific Ocean for over a week, a tug from Seattle finally arrived and towed the vessel to Unalaska Harbor, Alaska, where the vessel was re-ballasted to a normal upright position. No additional pollution occurred.
More Information about Significant Responses
IncidentNews: 10 Famous Spills: Learn more about ten of the world's largest oil spills.
Oil Types: Learn about the many different kinds of oil, which differ in how they affect the environment, if spilled, and in how hard they are to clean up.
Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: Learn about the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Includes links to many related resources, including photo galleries.
Oil and Hazardous Materials Response Reports: Browse reports on oil and chemical spill responses that NOAA OR&R supported from October 1992 through September 1999.