Risk In Oil Spill Disaster And Pollution Engineering Essay

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On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez from Valdez, Alaska to Los Angeles, California was grounding. Follow the record, the ship was from Trans Pipeline terminal and departed at 9:12 pm March 23, 1989. Expert ship pilot William Murphy was hired to maneuver the 986-foot vessel. The captain of the vessel is Joe Hazelwood. Helmsman Harry Claar was steering. After passing through Valdez Narrows, Captain Hazelwood took over the wheelhouse because of the pilot Murphy left the vessel. Because the shipping lanes was obstruct with small icebergs, so Claar got permission form Coast Guard to go out through the inbound lanes. After sometimes Hazelwood left Third Mate Gregory Cousins is in control the wheel and Able Seaman Robert Kagan at the helm. The Third Mate Gregory Cousins give instruction to turn back into shipping lanes. At that time, Claar was replaced by Helsman Robert Kagan. Cousins and Kagen failed to turn back into shipping lanes and this made the ship ran aground on Bligh Reef at 12:04 am March 24, 1989[1]. Both of them was giving six hours off duty before starting his 12 hours watch. Then the ship struck Bligh Reef The oil spilled Approximately 11 million gallons -- the equivalent of 257,000 barrels or 38,800 metric tonnes barrels was wasted when the oil tanker struck at Prince William Sound's, Bligh Reef[1]. In this incident Exxon Valdez involved more personnel and equipment they ever did in any other spill in U.S history.

The location of Prince William Sound's remote location, the only transport can reach there is helicopter, plane and boat. Because of transport problem providing meal, fuel, others resource and transportation is severely taxed this made the industry and government existing plan. The region affected by oil spill is habitat for salmon, sea otters, seals and seabirds. Wildlife is severely affected by the oil spill, estimates 100,000 of 250,000 seabird immediate effect included the death, 2,800 sea otters, 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 Bald Eagles, 22 orcas, up to 22 killer whales and the destruction of billions of salmon and herring eggs[2]. Even today the scientists still continue to study and analysis about the affected shoreline and how the ecosystem responds to.

Aim and objective of Exxon Mobile Corporation

Exxon Mobil Corporation is consider the world's premier petroleum and petrochemical company. For more than 30 years Exxon Mobil has promoted its Standards of Business Conduct. For every business decision company has make is reflect to the company's commitment to corporate citizenship. The ExxonMobil's objective is to maintain a consistent focus on being an industry leader in asset performance, business efficiency and in maximizing shareholder value.

For shareholders, Exxon Mobil committed to enhancing a long term plan on investment dollars. The Exxon Mobil will running the business profitably and responsibly, to ensure sure all shareholders to be rewards with superior returns [3].

Objective for customers, Exxon Mobil will offering good service and high quality products. The Exxon Mobil also will consistently satisfy the customer need and to be innovative and responsive [3].

Objective for employees, facing in many competitive Exxon Mobil commit provide exceptional of workforce, so can stand in a valuable competitive edge. To have this advantage, Exxon Mobil need to hire and retain the most qualified people and send for the training and development, so can maximize the opportunities for success. Besides that, Exxon Mobile also committed to all employees have safe work environment and will characterizes by open communication, trust and fair treatment [3].

For communities, Exxon Mobile commit to maintain high ethical standard and also will respect local and national cultures, to be a good citizen in all the place around the world, obey all applicable laws, regulations and rules. As we all can see Exxon Mobil are dedicated to running safe environmentally responsible operation in all work place [3].

2) Refinery industry process and operation

Crude oil is liquid and formed deep under the surface. This crude oil is contains hundreds of different types of hydrocarbons and all mixed together. Before it can be used for fuel, the hydrocarbons need to be refined first and each types of the hydrocarbons also have anything useful. Fortunately there is a easy way to do this separate, this is what oil refinery industry work. Crude oil arrive oil refinery its journey does not end here, there is many process need to do in the factory [4][Image 1].

Basically refining is carried out in three main steps.

2.1) Steps 1 - Separation

This process is done in a large tower called distillation tower [4][Image 2] , the vapor and liquid mixture then fed into the bottom section of the tower, this feed section is the hottest place in the distillation tower. The temperature can reach until 750 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside the large tower the temperature was heated, and then the crude oil will into fractions based on their boiling point. The tower inside contain a number of trays, so when the crude oils is being heated the liquids flow down the tower and the gasses up[Image 3]. The lighter materials are removed in the upper section of the tower and the heavier materials are withdrawn from the lower section [5]. The final distillation step is a vacuum to maximize liquid recovery. After all this process, the products are still considered "unfinished" and it needs further more processing to become useful products.

2.2) Steps 2 - Conversion

After the distillation separated process the crude oil still consider unfinished products. This conversion process is very important, the main purpose of this process is to covert oil into high valued gasoline. Inside crude oil contain hundred of hydrocarbons, the longer the carbon chain the heavier the product. By using some chemical like Fluidized Catalytic Cracker (FCCs), Cokers and Hydrocrackers, this problem can be solve, we can make the long carbon chain into short carbon chain or put the chains together.

So by using the FCC to convert gas oil into a mix of Liquidified Petroleum Gas(LPG), gasoline and diesel. But even that also the reactions required a lot of heat, the FCC reactor operates at about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside the refinery the heaviest material in Vacumm Tower Bottom(VTB) or resid. Because of this heavy material has too many contaminants to process in the FCC, so some of the resid will sold to the paving asphalt market. In this condition, need to use Delayed Coker to convert heavy material into more valuable products. This Delayed Coker will use high temperature to break the hydrocarbon chains. By using this Delayed Coker also can produce low valued petroleum coke.

But in some oil refinery industry, the Delayed Cokers and FCCs are supplemented by Hydrocracking [5][Image 4]. The function is almost same to the FCC and this Hydrocracker will produce some product with low sulfur. This process is carried out two stage, at first stage is to reduce the amount of nitrogen, sulfur and oxygen impurities, second stage is to continue the process of cracking [5][Image 5]. In Hydrocracking, the catalyst stays in one place then the gas oil passes over the catalyst, then the reaction take place at high temperature in presence of high concentrations of hydrogen. In this process, light liquid products will send to Catalytic Reforming and others liquid products can use directly into jet fuel and diesel.

There is another one process is Catalytic Reforming[5][Image 6], the main purpose of this process is to increase the octane number of gasoline blend components and generate hydrogen. Because in the same length carbon chains can have very different octane numbers, based on the shape of the chain. The straight chains or paraffins have low octane number and while rings or aromatics have high octane numbers. When in high temperature the catalyst will reform the paraffins into aromatics and some of the aromatics produced will sent to petrochemical manufacturers.

2.3) Step 3 - Purification

After the crude oil been through separation and conversion process, the products are ready for purification, which is sulfur removal. This is done by the Hydrotreating, this process is converted the heavy molecules into lights ones. In this process, the unfinished products contacted with hydrogen will under heat and high pressure, this is because of the presence of catalyst and the resulting in hydrogen sulfide and desulfurized product. By using the catalyst, it will accelerates the rate of the sulfur removal reaction occurs and the sulfur removal meeting the environmental standards and quality specifications. There is second method of purification which is the form of hydrogen sulfide through extraction. Hydrogen sulfide can be produces by desulfurization through hydrotreatment or extraction. The sulfur recovery will converts hydrogen sulfide to sulfur and water. So the rest of the sulfur will sold to the refinery by product.

Risk in oil spill disaster and pollution

That is multiple factors have been identified as contributing to the incident. Exxon shipping company failed to repair the raycas radar system, which would have indicated to the third mate an impending collision with the Bligh reef. Besides that, the U.S. Coast Guard was failed to provide an effective vassel traffic system to the ship [6][7].

When the incident happens the third mate failed to properly maneuver the vessel, possibly due to fatigue or excessive workload. Besides that, Exxon shipping company failed to supervise the master and provide a rested and sufficient crew for Exxon Valdez [6][7].

When the incident happens the skipper was drunk, he was below the decks, sleeping off his bender. As a skipper he violates the rule of morality, he should take fully responsible on this incident with deserved a punishment [6][7].

Consequences of all the hazards of the oil sill disaster

After the incidents happens it bring the states of Alaska a huge impact. Crude oil was heavily oiled shoreline, dead and dying wildlife. Many people felt was a severe environmental insult to a relatively pristine, ecologically important area to many species of wildlife endangered elsewhere.

A short term economic impact Alaska after the oil spill incident. The recreational sport fishing losses, these losses was estimated based on the impacts of the spill on sport fishing activity. The number of anglers, the number of sport fishing trips, the area fished, the species fished for, and the length of the trip. For 1989 the loss was estimated to be between $0 and & 580 million dollars; for 1990 the range was $3.6 million $50.5 million dollars.

The spill caused tourism losses. Decreased resident and non-resident vacation and pleasure visitor traffic in the spill-affected area due to lack of available visitor services. Severe labor shortage in the visitor industry throughout the state due to traditional service industry workers seeking high-paying spill clean-up jobs. Fifty-nine percent of business in the most affected areas reported spill related cancellations and 16% reported business was less than expected due to the spill.

Improvement and change in the management system

Changes ExxonMobil has made to prevent another accident like Valdez

In the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez accident, ExxonMobil redoubled its long-time commitment to safeguard the environment, employees and operating communities worldwide. To improve oil-spill prevention, ExxonMobil has, for example:

Modified tanker routes

Instituted drug and alcohol testing programs for safety sensitive positions

Restricted safety-sensitive positions to employees with no history of substance abuse

Implemented more extensive periodic assessment of ExxonMobil vessels and facilities

Strengthened training programs for vessel captains and pilots and

Applied new technology to improve vessel navigation and ensure the integrity of oil containment systems

 In the event a spill occurs, we also have improved our response capability. For example:

ExxonMobil is a founding member of every major oil spill response center worldwide

There are over 1,000 ExxonMobil employees involved in oil spill response teams worldwide

We hold frequent, extensive oil spill drills at various ExxonMobil locations around the world and

We have developed and applied new spill-detecting technology.


Oil Company like Exxon Mobil should take fully responsible on this accident. They should realize the effect of oil spill can be devastating for animal, people, marine life and environments for a long, long time. Considering this, the Exxon Mobil manager should be give some recommendation and suggestions, this is ethical and professional responsibility of a company. A proper system should have to educate all employees about this time the oil spill consequence on animals, humans and environment. So they can understand and play their part in preventing oils spills. Besides that, company also should send employees for this formal training regarding in this matter. The management people also should administer the implementation of oil spill and think out some idea to prevention strategies and action.

Last but not least is the company already have contingency plan, but rarely practically test such plan. Contingency plans need to test and see if they still effective or not. Now days technology and environmental changes occur, such plans should be use latest techniques to control oil spill. The oil spill prevention and control procedures must be formally defined and follow these steps can more efficiency stop oil spill from happening.