Water Pollution In The Arab Gulf Biology Essay

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This report discusses the pollution in the Arab Gulf due to oil spills. First, It mentions the causes of the oil spills and the natural process after the spills. It also mentions the effects of the oil spills on the marine life with more details. Also, it gives some possible solutions that can be used to clean up the oil spill.


The Arab gulf is considered as one of the most important waterways in the world because of the oil transportation .However, it is also considered one of the most polluted waters in the world. Oil pollution is the major factor of the Arab Gulf pollution. The sources of oil pollution are natural seeps, offshore drilling, down the drain maintenance and oil spills (6,2). The largest source in the Arab gulf is the oil spills. The tankers collisions and the Iraq-Kuwait war are the major causes of the oil spills. Oil spills, has a large impact on the marine life affecting both animals and plants in many ways leading , in most cases, to death . Scientists and Engineers have developed many techniques to clean up this pollution such as booms , skimmers , separators and dispersants. This report discusses the causes and effects of oil spills in the Gulf and give some possible solutions.

1 Background :

This section discusses the causes of the oil spills and the natural process after the spills

1.1 Causes

There are mainly two major causes of the oil pollution the collisions of the tankers and the gulf war . In this section I will discuss both in more details

1.1.1 Pollution From Ships

There have been many tankers collisions in the history of the Arab Gulf. Each collision , has a large impact on the Arab Gulf by spilling oil in the water. An Iranian barge , in 1998, collided in north of the UAE . Approximately , 4000 tons out of 11000 tons of the crude oil ,the barge was carrying, was spilled in the gulf affecting the water supply of the UAE. Another collision was in 1997, when a barge carrying diesel collided with the ground and spilled 5000 tons of diesel and also polluting the water supply of emirate of SHARJAH.16000 tons of crude oil was spilled in the coast of the UAE in 1994 which is the worst oil spill in the history of the UAE.( Aminmansour 2)

1.1.2The Iraqi Wars

The effects of the Gulf War on the Arab Gulf are still there. During that war a large amount of oil was released , approximately 10.8 million barrels( Nizari 334). On 19 January 1991, the oil that was contained in five tankers was released into the Gulf by the Iraqi military. On the 20 of the same month , the oil that was contained in Al Ahmadi north tanker was released. Table1 shows the sources of the oil spills during that war.( Nizari 333)

Table 1 ( Nizari 334)

19 Jan

Five tankers at Al-Ahmadi released cargoes.

20 Jan

Oil release at Sea Island terminal.

23 Jan

Amuriyah near Mina Al-Bakr Terminal releases cargo.

24 Jan

Al-Ahmedi Sea Island terminal spill announced.

US war planes attack and sink Iraqi tanker.

26 Jan

Mina Al-Bakr terminal oil release.

Ras al Zour refinery at Khafji damaged, results in spill.

27 Jan

Mina Al-Bakr spill announced during military briefing.

30 Jan

Ain Salah and Rumailah release remaining cargoes.

1.2 The Natural Process After the Spills

The natural processes after oil spills depend on many things including the amount of oil spilled in the water. Oil floats over the surface of water because it has less density than water. Heavy crude oils spread slower than lighter oils .Warm temperature ,tides and winds are factors that help oil to spread faster. Oil can be carried by the tides to the beaches causing many problems. The hydrocarbons in the oil can be converted to carbon dioxide and water with the help of the bacteria .This can help to clean the water. Significant percentage , up to 50% , of the oil evaporate .(6 , 3-4)

2 Effects on Marine Life :

Oil spills causes severe damages to the marine life. A large amount of oil spills can kill and poison a large number of animals and plants in a short time(2 , 1) .While ,it takes a very long time for the marine life to completely recover from the oil spills ,approximately 70 years. (2 , 2)

2.1 Animals

Direct contact with highly concentrated oil poisons and kills the animals. However, animals can get poisoned without contacting the oil and that is because of the compounds in the oil such as Naphthalene and Phenanthrene . Furthermore, these compounds decrease the immunity of the animals to the diseases . In addition , these compounds affect the growth and the behavior of animals.(2 , 1-2)

Oil spills reduces the insulation ability of the birds when it covers their furs or feathers making them susceptible to temperature change. Additionally, it makes it hard for them to fly. As a result, birds will not be able to protect themselves from predators. Also, birds that need the flying ability for food die of hunger.(2 , 1-2)

The prawns are affected by the oil spills in many ways. First, the feeding activities in parents are decreased .Second, the respiratory systems are destroyed resulting in difficulties in breathing. Finally, the immunity of the prawns to diseases is decreased as a result of the Irritation of the immune system. ( 2 , 3)

2.2 Plants

The strength of the effects resulted from oil spills on the plants depends on the plant species. Recovering from oil spills also depends on the species . The damage caused by the oil spill depends on the season, it is larger in spring than the fall because the spring is the growing season. Since oil has less density than water , it floats on the surface of the water reducing the amount of light going into the water which reduces the photosynthesis of plants. The photosynthesis , is also affected when the oil covers the stomata , which are small pores on the plants leaves that allows the dioxide to go in and the oxygen to go out. When the stomata get covered by the oil , the plants will have less food which leads to death. Furthermore, covering the stomata, which is also responsible for cooling the plants, results in the increase of the plants temperature .As a result, the leaves of the plants die, and internal process of the plants will be damaged. The leaves and stems can regrow if they are exposed to oil once ,however , if they are exposed more than once they will die in most cases.(4 , 2)(2 , 1)

3 Solutions :

There are many solutions that can be used to clean up the oil spills. In this section , I will mention only four of them .

3.1 Oil Booms

The first step that should be taken when the oil is released , is to stop it from spreading . Booms, are mostly used for this job . Simply , booms consists of rugged fabric, chain and freeboard. The rugged fabric is the floated part of the booms above the water. While the chain, which has a large weight, is used to make the skirt sink preventing the oil from escaping under the bottom of the boom .Finally , the freeboard which is used to prevent the oil from escaping above the boom .There are three different types of booms, hard booms, sorbent booms and fire booms. Sorbent booms, are made such that they can absorb the oil especially light oil. Fire booms, however, have high resistivity to fire. Figure 1 shows an oil boom. ( Graham 3)(6 , 5-7)

Figure 1 ( Graham 3)

3.2 Mechanical Recovery

After containing the oil using the booms or any other techniques, the oil should be removed. Mechanical methods , such as skimmers and separators can be used to do that job. Both methods are discussed in the following sections.

3.2.1 Skimmers

Skimmers are not fast, however they are effective .They have the advantage of not changing the physical and chemical properties of the oil .There are many types of skimmers ,such as belt , brush and rope mop skimmers (shown in figure 2). Belt skimmers work as follows: first, the belt is put into the polluted water ; then the oil is removed from the belt using special blades. Brush skimmers, on the other hand , float on the water .They consist of a brush that collects the oil which will be removed at the end from the brush. Rope mop skimmers, are simply a drive unit and a rope. The rope carries the stuck oil to the drive unit where the oil will be removed. ( Graham 4-5) (6 , 7)

Figure 2 ( Graham 5)

3.2.2 Separators

Separators, are alternating solution to the skimmers. Basically, they use the fact that water and oil have different densities. First , the polluted water goes inside the separator. Then, water will be separated from oil by a force produced from an impeller. Finally, the clean water will be directed outside the separator ,while the oil will remain there .Figure 3 shows a separator . ( Graham 5-6)

Figure 3 ( Graham 6)

3.3 Dispersants

Solvents and surfactants form what is known as dispersants. Dispersants are used to reduce the tension between water and oil. When the tension is small enough, the oil will be free and move down the water column and it will disperse . So, dispersants help to make the natural process happen faster. Figure 4 , illustrates how the dispersants method works. ( Graham 3) (6 , 7)

Figure 4 (6 , 7)


The best solution to any problem is to avoid it in the first place. We should not concentrate on the cleaning up techniques only, but we should also try to reduce the amount of oil spills. One possible way , is to improve the design of the tankers in a way that reduces the amount of the spills when a collision occurs. Finally, the Arab Gulf is the source of food and water to the next generations , we have to do our best to save it.

Work cited

1-) Aminmansour, Morteza ." Pollution in Persian Gulf." Pars times. Web.15 Apr 2011.


2-) " Environmental effects of oil spills on marine ecosystem ." Bushehr Port. Web.

15 Apr 2011.


3-) Graham, Pam ." Deep Sea Oil Spill Cleanup Techniques: Applicability, Trade-offs

and Advantages." Discovery Guides. 8 Jul 2010. Web. 16 Apr 2011 .


4-) ''Gulf Oil Spills Series: Impacts on Coastal Wetland Plants.'' Earth Gauge .Web.

19 Apr 2011. www.earthgauge.net/2010/gulf-oil-spill-resources.

5-) Nizari ,Tawfiq and David.A.Olsen ''Saudi Arabia's Response to the 1991 Gulf Oil

Spill.'' Marine Pollution Bulletin. 1993 .Page 333-345.

6-) "Oil Spills." SDWF. Web. 16 Apr 2011.