01 June 2010

Oil slick from the sky?

This morning, as we pass by the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom before dawn, we see that flaring is still going on.
At sunrise, the size of the 'cloud' over Pulau Bukom is more apparent.

The flaring on Pulau Bukom lights up the base of this huge cloud. The small dark mass to the right of Bukom is Pulau Hantu, while the larger dark mass further to the right is Pulau Semakau. More about flaring at Pulau Bukom.
Here's a close up view of the flaring on Pulau Bukom during a night trip to Pulau Hantu.
During our predawn trips to the South this week, there was flaring going every time we passed Pulau Bukom. During daylight, we don't often observe a similar situation.

Also near our Southern shores, the massive industrial installations on Jurong Island. Also with 'clouds' overhead.
We have a huge number of ships in our port, and some of them emit black smoke.
Then I rediscovered an old post I did about oil spills. Here's some extracts which I thought would be interesting in the light of the recent oil spill.

Are tanker accidents the major source of marine oil pollution?

From the Global Marine Oil Pollution Gateway

No. Although every major oil spill from a tanker or a rig, hitting coastal areas and beaches and killing marine life and seabirds, is a tragedy and causes much damage, it has been estimated that oil spills in conjunction with tanker accidents or oil platform blowouts account for a minor part, approximately 10-15 per cent, of the total annual oil input of oils to the marine environment.

Where does oil in the sea come from?

Not just from ships, but also from natural sources as well as from gaseous pollutants (yup, from cars).

Here's more from the Global Marine Oil Pollution Gateway quoting a 2002 report by the National Research Council (NRC), U.S. National Academy of Sciences

"The average total worldwide annual release of petroleum (oils) from all known sources to the sea has been estimated at 1.3 million tonnes. However, the range is wide, from a possible 470,000 tonnes to a possible 8.4 million tonnes per year.

The main sources contributing to the total input:
  • natural seeps: 46%
  • discharges from consumption of oils (operational discharges from ships and discharges from land-based sources): 37%
  • accidental spills from ships; 12%
  • extraction of oil: 3%
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) claims the following distribution of the inputs from different sources:
  • Land-based sources (urban runoff and discharges from industry): 37%
  • Natural seeps: 7%
  • The oil industry - tanker accidents and offshore oil extraction: 14%
  • Operational discharges from ships not within the oil industry: 33%
  • Airborne hydrocarbons: 9%
The FAQs on the Global Marine Oil Pollution Gateway include answers to intriguing questions such as
  • Does oil in the sea only kill seabirds?
  • Can a damaged coastal habitat and damaged wildlife ever recover from an oil spill?
  • Can an oil spill affect human health?
  • Who pays for the damage caused by oil spills?
  • What can be done to prevent marine oil pollution?
  • You see big rescue operations at sea and shore cleanup operations, but can they really stop anything?
  • Can I myself do anything at all to prevent further marine oil pollution?

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