Government Figures: A History of Gulf Oil Spills

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While the Deepwater Explorer blowout and leak is expected to be the worst offshore oil catastrophe in U.S. history, the federal government documented 330 oil spills related to offshore drilling between 1964 and 2009. A total of 550,500 barrels of oil were spilled (23,121,000 gallons), mostly in the Gulf of Mexico, from a variety of causes including weather, equipment failure, human error and blowouts.

The information comes from a “Summary of OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) Spills” on the website of the U.S. Minerals Management Service.

The summary further divides these accidents into spills of 1–thousand barrels or greater. There were 46 of these “medium” and “major” spills in the same 35 year period, with 495, 284 barrels lost (20,801,928 gallons). Eight of these spills were caused by blowouts and eight reached shore. Hurricanes are a very common cause of oil spills. Hurricanes caused 15 of these larger spills (many resulting from Hurricane Katrina), and many more that were smaller than 1-thousand barrels.

As for injuries and fatalities, there were two particularly deadly accidents in the period covered by these statistics. In May of 1970, 11 miles off the Louisiana coast, the Chambers and Kennedy Platform A exploded and burned in 58 feet of water, killing 9 workers. Human error was listed as the cause. 100 barrels were spilled....

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