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Pollutant spills worldwide - 2013

Sea & shoreline


Spills and their location worldwide


In 2013, Cedre recorded 28 significant spills, over half of which occurred in Asia (in particular Southeast Asia), and a quarter in the Americas.


Distribution of spills at sea, in coastal areas and in ports


2013 saw 28 significant spills recorded by Cedre, placing it on a par with previous years. Half of these spills occurred at sea, 20% on the shoreline, almost as many in ports and finally 10% in estuaries.




 Quantities spilt at sea, in coastal areas and in ports

The total volume of oil and HNS spilt in marine waters, inshore/estuarine areas and in ports in 2013 was approximately 66,000 tonnes.

This estimation, which ranks among the 3 highest recorded since 2004, was mainly dominated by a single incident, involving the loss of an estimated 50,000 tonnes of coal from a bulk carrier in the coastal waters of South Africa in August 2013.
The median volume spilt was around 70 tonnes, with 5 spills exceeding the thousand-tonne mark.


Type of products spilt

Among oil spills (over 90% of occurrences in 2013), the most frequently spilt substances (32 %) were white products, followed by heavy fuel oils (IFO≥380) and intermediate fuel oils (grades IFO<380 of unspecified), each involved in 18% of cases. These are followed by unspecified oils (14%) and crude oils (11%). Aside from oil products, we note a single case in the category of coal derivatives and one incident involving a liquid bulk foodstuff. 




Quantities spilt by pollutant type

In terms of the quantities spilt by type of product, we note the predominant share of coal derivatives in the 2013 total, due to the loss of a cargo of coal in the coastal waters of South Africa. 

The most predominant oil category is that of white products (17% of the annual total), followed by the other categories (intermediate to heavy fuel oils, crude oils and finally unspecified oils), all of which represent less than 5% of the annual total. 
Finally, 2013 saw few spills of over 10 m3 of hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) in offshore or coastal waters. 
We note the spill, in the liquid foodstuff category, of 1,400 tonnes of molasses from a pipeline in Honolulu Harbor, US.


Inland waters


Frequency of spills by source

In 2013, 34 significant spills were identified in inland waters. Like in previous years, pipelines represented the most frequent source (26%) of spills, followed by unspecified oil facilities (oil storage facilities, wells and unspecified facilities) representing a combined total of 21% of incidents. This was followed in turn by tanker trucks and rail tank cars, each involved in an equal share of incidents (12%).

Compared with the other sources identified, industrial facilities (power plants, mines) and other facilities (factories, SMEs/supermarkets), only represented a small share of the number of spills (3 to 6% of cases) in 2013.


Quantity spilt by source

In 2013, around 3,200 tonnes of oil and other hazardous substances were spilt in inland waters due to the incidents recorded. Although this is probably an underestimation due to a lack of accurate information, or even a complete lack of data, in some cases in terms of the quantities spilt, this estimation is far lower than the annual median for the 2004-2012 period (approximately 12,300 tonnes).

As in previous years, pipelines were responsible for the majority of the total quantity spilt throughout the year (68%, i.e. around 2,200 tonnes). The other main contributors were tank cars (11%) and onshore oil facilities (oil storage facilities, wells, unspecified facilities) which combined also represented 11% of the annual total, with the largest contribution in this category being that of unspecified oil facilities (ranking higher than wells and oil storage facilities).

Only tanker trucks exceeded the hundred-tonne mark, i.e. 3% of the annual total, a relatively low contribution given the frequency of road tanker accidents (see previous point), indicating the small-scale of spills caused by such events.

Other structures made up only a small share of the total volume spilt in the year (< 2%).


Quantity spilt by pollutant

In 2013, like in previous years, the majority of pollutants spilt were oils (around 88%). Almost half of these oil spills involved unspecified oil, spilled following 8 incidents, the two largest of which occurred: (i) in the Canadian province of Alberta in June, with the release of between 400 and 600 m3 of salt water from a leaking pipeline (contaminating 2 hectares of muskegs), and (ii) in the Komi Republic (Russia, near Usinsk) in May, with a spill of around 500 m3 into the Kolva River from a RusVietPetro pipeline. This category was followed by oil derivatives (30% of annual total), represented in 2013 by a spill of around 900 tonnes of diluted bitumen (Wabasca heavy, extracted from the Athabasca tar sands) following the rupture of a pipeline in March in the US. The share of crude oils (light and of unspecified density which, combined, represented around 10% of the annual total) and light refined products, or white oils (around 8% of the annual total), is also worthy of note.

Chemicals represented a small proportion of the annual total. We note the share, in excess of the hundred-tonne mark, of alcohols, due to a 185-tonne spill of ethanol in a river in Iowa (US), caused by the derailment, then lifting operations, of several tank cars.

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