Cleaning Up Petroleum Spills – Who Does the Work?

Autos & TrucksTrucks

  • Author Christopher Hunter
  • Published October 26, 2011
  • Word count 523

Since the first time it was pumped from the ground and transported elsewhere, crude oil has been causing havoc by way of oil spills. In 1859, the first well was drilled near Titusville, Pennsylvania and was believed to have been the source of the first spill in America. Even today, despite all of the modern technology used in extracting this valuable fuel from the ground, these disasters are still a common occurrence. In fact, the Gulf of Mexico alone has had 267 spills. Thankfully, when these oil slicks wash on shore, there are vacuum trucks to help lessen the damage caused to marine life and infrastructures near beaches.


There are many factors that could cause a spill. The biggest one in history that occurred during the Gulf War was man-made. Retreating Iraqi troops purposely opened the valves of the wells and pipe lines with the intention of slowing down the pursuing American forces. This intentional act resulted in eight million barrels of crude oil contaminating the Persian Gulf.

While the causes of these spills can range from man-made to natural calamities, the most common cause is tankers. According to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited, 1.7 billion gallons of oil were lost from 1970 to 2009 due to tanker incidents. This type of ship transports the crude collected from offshore rigs to the mainland, where it is processed and refined into various types of petroleum products. It is during transportation where most of these tragedies happen.

Despite the massive size of tankers, they are no match against the power of nature. There are many accounts of tankers breaking down at sea and loosing their loads due to heavy storms. Sometimes, tankers run aground creating massive spills. Often times, the cause is due to human error, such as what happened with the Liberian tanker Odyssey in 1988. The ship was over-filled and due to its excess load, the ship literally broke in half at sea.

Clean-Up Responsibility

Spills occur at sea where dispersants can be sprayed aerially to break down the oil slicks. In severe cases, the slick is still able to reach nearby shorelines and cause a lot of damage. In such places, dispersants are no longer effective and petroleum companies resort to the use of vacuum trucks to get rid of most of the slick.

The vacuum truck is a vehicle that is capable of suctioning any kind of liquid waste including crude oil. What is really great is that it can also remove contaminated sand and pebbles so the cleaning effort can be thoroughly executed. Once the contamination due to the slicks is collected, the vacuum truck then transports its contents to waste treatment facilities where all the solid material mixed with the crude oil is removed and cleaned so it can be returned to the shoreline.

As long as society depends on fossil fuel, the possibility of another massive spill is always possible. Despite regulations and advancements in technology, there are still many factors that could easily trigger another disaster. Thankfully, there are vacuum trucks that do the work of cleaning up the problem and protecting the shoreline when things get out of hand!

Christopher M. Hunter is an expert in commercial specialty trucks. To find out more about Vacuum Trucks, go to the main website at:

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