Oil Spill Disaster And Pollution Biology Essay


The purpose of this report is to research and investigate Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster and pollution which happened at 1989. The report aims to evaluate the risk in all area that lead to the oil spill disaster. This research is to prevent the disaster from happening and the improvement of the company management.

Methodology - The study takes a case study from internet website, journals and news, examine the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster based on the risk management and the effect of the disaster.

Findings - This study explore the improvement and the changes in the management systems to prevent the oil spill disaster from happening.

Originality - This study contributes to theory of management. Thus, the research of this report is to evaluate the best ways from management and planning to prevent the disaster from happening.

The super-tanker Exxon Valdez Company is the world largest publicly traded international oil and gas company. Because of carrying crude oil safely to Prince William Sound more than 8000 time, so no one will think any unusual problem from this company. However, the disaster had began, the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster happened in Alaska. In March 24, 1989 a modern, well-equipped and second newest super-tanker in Exxon Valdez Company grounded at Bligh Reef, rupturing eight of its eleven cargo tanks and spilled 10.8million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound. It is the world's largest oil spills and the most devastating human-caused environmental disaster ever to occur at sea. By the disaster, I had doing my research based on some objectives which has identifying what really happened at that disaster, the risk of management, to prevent and to improve the response to an accident. There are what management failures and human factors that lead the oil spill disaster, the effect after crude oil spilled and recommended improvement and changes in the management systems so to prevent the disaster from happening covered in this project.

2. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Disaster

2.1 The Aim and Objectives of Exxon Valdez Corporation

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The objectives of Exxon Mobil Corporation are to generate more market product and explore for oil and natural gas in aspect of the energy and petrochemical business. Besides that, as a industry leader they aim to provide a good operation by delivering safe, improving energy efficiency, reliable operations and maintaining strong business control. Thus, the Corporation want to generates the most benefit and the best ways to deliver the energy that the world and society needs by applying science and innovation.

2.2 The Oil and Refinery Industrial Processes and Operations

Oil refinery is a process where crude oil is processed and refined into more useful petroleum products, such as Gasoline, diesel fuel and others. Thus, the oil refineries are huge sprawl industrial complex.

First, the crude oil derived from decaying plant, animal debris, primarily phyto and zooplankton. Then the water-insoluble organic components contained oxygen, which was largely removed under high pressure process from accumulating sediment. While decarbonxylation which is the process of elimination of carboxyl from a molecule, the evolution of carbon dioxide occurred due to the action of anaerobic bacteria decomposition.

Second, the connect petroleum to organic rather than inorganic sources stems from the observation of optical activity among certain petroleum constituents. Plausible source materials for the porphyrin constituents of crude oil are chlorophyll and heme. Additionally, Fatty Acid are prime candidates as petroleum source materials because they can be readily converted to hydrocarbons by decarboxylation as shown below:

RCO2H → RH + CO2(g) (1)

fatty acid hydrocarbon

For example:

CH3(CH2)15CH2CO2H → CH3(CH2)15CH3 + CO2(g)

stearic acid heptadecane

Third, the crude oil is separated into fractions by fractional distillation, which the fractions at the top of the fractionating column have lower boiling points than the fractions at the bottom. The heavy bottom fractions are often cracked into lighter, more useful products. All of the fractions are processed further in other refining units.

Fourth, separation of hydrocarbons for non-polar in nature of hydrocarbons occurs as a function of increasing molecular weight, which correlates with increasing boiling point (Table 1). For the series of petroleum constituents listed in Table 1, the order of emergence from a fractionating column parallels the boiling point: pentane, benzene, cyclohexane, octane, decalin, phenanthrene. It would be difficult to separate completely benzene and cyclohexane due to the similarity in their boiling points. Fractional distillation of petroleum affords numerous fractions as a crude function of carbon number and boiling point (Table 2).

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The products of oil processing are usually grouped into three categories such as light distillates like gasoline, middle distillates like diesel, and heavy distillates like lubricating oils. This classification is based on distillation (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Fractionating Tower for Petroleum Distillation (Global Petrol Metal Cor. 2008)

Table 1. Representative Examples of Petroleum Constituents (Global Petrol Metal Cor. 2008)



MW (g mol-1)






















Table 2. Approximate Composition and Boiling Points of Various Petroleum Hydrocarbon (HC) Fractions (Global Petrol Metal Cor. 2008)

Name of Fraction

Representative HCS

Natural gas


Liquefied gas (LP gas)

C3H8, C4H10

Petroleum ether

C5H12, C6H14

Aviation gasoline

C5 to C9

Auto gasoline

C5 to C12


C7 to C12


C10 to C16

Fuel oil

C12 to C18

Lubricating oils

C15 to C24

2.3 The risks in all areas that lead to the oil spill disaster and pollution

The risk that lead to the oil spill disaster are human factors, management failures, the ship monitoring system and government policy.

2.3.1 Human Factors

Many of the accidents and disaster are attributable to human error. Before the disaster happened, the weather conditions at the Alaska have drizzle rain and snow mixed, north wind at 10 knots and visibility 10 miles at the grounding. Regarding this, the failure of the captain to give a proper navigation watch because the effect of drinking alcohol. Thus, the captain not be punctual on his duty. Sometime, a general complacency will impending the disaster, this make Valdez's crew had come to permeate and oversight of the entire system. The Captain fail to communication with marine terminal and seek permission from Port Valdez. Besides that, the captain also not listen to the advises.

2.3.2 Management failures

The failure of proper planning on the vessel due to fatigue and excessive workload. Poor work conditions are also lead to the oil spill. This is due the Exxon Company failed to provide rested to the crew. Besides that, the Exxon Valdez also slipped its last mooring line at the time that had been set.

2.3.3 Ship monitoring system

The design of the vessel systems can lead to the disaster since the lack function of pilot and escort services. Addition, the monitoring systems of the vessel can't given the proper traffic lane. The hull of the vessel because the age of the equipment such as malfunctioning will lead to the disaster and pollution

2.3.4 Government policy

U.S. Coast Guard, one of the department that in charge the vessel traffic system had failed to give the Exxon Shipping Company an effective and proper vessel traffic system. Thus, without any agency-wide standard for policy of U.S. Coast Guard, The tankers carried only 19 crews to manage about 6.3millios gallon of oil.

2.4 The consequences of all hazards of the oil spill disaster

Alaska North Slope crude oil is produced along the northern coast of Alaska in various fields such as Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk. The oil is heavy crude that is highly toxic and slow to disperse when released into the environment. About 1,300 miles of shore line were impacted by oil, 200 miles were heavily or moderately oiled; 1100 miles were lightly oiled. The large area of the oil spill is from Bligh Reef spill stretched 460 miles to the tiny village of Chignik on the Alaska Peninsula.

Nobody will know the animals died after the oil spill disaster, the carcasses of more than 35,000 birds and 1,000 sea otters were found after the oil spill. The best estimates are: 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbour seals, 250 bald eagles, up to 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs.

Figure 2: The area of the oil extend

2.4.1 Clean-up workers

The workers will suffer a variety of transient respiratory, dermatological, and other symptoms like headache, nausea, and dizziness. Thus, it will increase rates of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Some of the workers are also having DNA damage, especially there are work for a long duration time.

2.4.2 Residents in Alaska

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The negative impacts of the Exxon Valdez oil spill go beyond the direct destruction of ecosystem resources, this existence of negative social impact reflected in term high-levels of social disruption and post-traumatic stress disorder. Besides that, it caused conflicts with family members and neighbours about disparities in compensation and other issues. Thus, the disaster will affect decreases of tourism, culturally and economically at Alaska and also the commercial fishing industry.

2.4.3 Environment

Figure 2: Victims of Exxon oil spill (Tree hugger, a discovery company, 2009, pg. 1)

There will be a natural mortality and collapse of pacific herring and fishes. Since the most serious and badly consequence in animals is the Aspiration pneumonia which caused the breathing for animal. Besides that, the crude oil gets on the feathers and destroys the insulation value, through this situation, animals will die of getting too cold. Addition, the crude oil will impact damage the liver and impairing reproduction. Thus, it will injured the individual species of pacific too.

For environment, the oil is slow to disperse and too toxic, this will destroy the ecosystems and the flora.

2.4.4 Long-term effects

The disaster will affect a decline in subsistence activities, loss of traditions and populations of animal and reduced growth rates. Sedentary sea life could not get out of the way because due to the uncertainties persist, from fumes in the air, chemical dispersants used on the slick, tar balls on beaches and contaminants consumed. Thus, there was much uncertainly to the amount of that injury and the uncertain remains.

2.5 The improvement and changes in the management systems to prevent the disaster from happening

2.5.1 Proper Planning

The proper planning is one of improvement the management systems to prevent the disaster from happening. Regarding this the company must had the foresight to anticipate the possibility of such an event occurring and to have the ability to paint a picture of a group of competent, and also caring people who can quickly to handle the situation.

2.5.2 The improvement of monitoring system in the vessel

The vessel of the Exxon Valdez Company should had a double-hull structure because it can reduce the oil amount more than half. The monitor of the tanker via satellite should be upgrade, since the new systems can actually detect from their control room at between 35 miles away. Besides that, the improvement type of instrument used to monitor winds and seas should be needed because the system can more efficient to alert the Coast Guard and the port of Alaska when sailing conditions warrant shutting down tanker traffic. The U.S coast guard should prowess at ship salvage, protecting crews and lightering operation and also show differing levels of preparedness and command capability.

2.5.3 Responsibility of a worker

The most important thing to prevent the disaster is that the Exxon Valdez's crew should what that plan is given by the leader and be well trained in how to implement it. Thus, responsibility of a crew should be improve such as be punctual and not to get drinking alcohol at the duty time.

2.5.4 Manning limits

The manning limits of the government policy also important for the industry, because it can contribute factors to the accident and disaster. Since the Exxon Valdez should provide enough crew backups and rest periods that can crisis situations can be confronted by a fresh, and also well supported crew.

3. Conclusion

For the report carried out, we found that because of the human errors will occurred a big disaster. The disaster will effect to the wildlife and also human being. The creation by God of human being is better than animal and have the ability to manage the earth. So a proper planning is one of the best way to prevent disaster from happening.

The management of a company is important to prevent disaster especially the management report should have What?, Who?, When?, Why?, How?, this will help managers classify and codify risks responses. Addition, the risk mitigation strategies like accept the opinion and the case study for pass experienced, minimize the problem, share, transfer, contingency reserves that include task contingency and managerial contingency such as change the plan or management thing, monitoring, and cross training such as specification knowledge. Besides that, the company need to identification the risk factor by brainstorming through the meetings and learn from the expert opinion and past history and also multiple or team based assessment.

The profit is important to the industry company but not earn by using improper ways. The best way to manage and prevent from disaster happening is manning limits by company, not just only 19 plus workers manage about 50 millions of crude oil, not time overrun of the project. Thus, maintain the modem automated vessel technology will be help reduced manning without compromise of safety or function, although the automation typically reduces manual workload but increases mental workload, It can solved by managing the work condition of the workers.

After the disaster the Exxon Corporation spent about 2.1 billion to the cleanup effort which include the civil settlement, criminal plea agreement and restitution and more. By this statement is better to have a good management to prevent from the disaster happening.

Nowadays, industrial company should not abuse the use of the technology is help us to prevent disaster from happening. Hence, disaster caused many problem that we can't imagine especially the long term effect on the human being, wildlife and environment. Hence, the God's creation, human being, is to manage the environment not to let the disaster happening because of poor management and planning. Protect the environment is our responsibility, don't let any disaster happen again.