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20 Years After the Exxon Valdez: Preventing--and Preparing for--the Next Oil Spill Disaster [Slide Show]

The biggest oil spill in U.S. history sparked improvements in tanker construction and navigation technology, along with better crew training, but the danger remains

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GUIDED PASSAGE:

To avoid other oil tankers from running aground in Prince William Sound, two escort vessels now accompany each tanker as they pass through. The advent of the satellite-enabled global positioning system (GPS) since the Exxon Valdez crash now allows vessels with transponders on them to be tracked second-to-second anywhere in the world.....[ More ]

BREAK IT UP:

So-called dispersants—chemicals that break oils into small particles—were used in the Exxon Valdez disaster and continue to see use worldwide today. In response to the accident, Exxon helped create COREXIT® EC9500A in the 1990s, a top dispersant deployed today.....[ More ]

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Floating tubes called booms help corral oil slicks around ships or prevent them from washing ashore, plus it makes it easier for skimmers to lap up the black gold. In this image, workers roll out a boom during the Cosco Busan fuel spill in San Francisco Bay in 2007.....[ More ]

THE GOOP RISES TO THE TOP:

We've all heard that oil and water don't mix; the saying goes for heavy crude as well as cooking oil. Reuptake devices called skimmers are used to slurp oil off of the top of seas and rivers, much of which can be reused.....[ More ]

BACK IN ACTION:

Olive is expected to make a full recovery. When responders similarly cleansed otters after the Exxon Valdez despoiled Alaskan coastal areas, it took eight to 10 days to restore the otter's natural waterproofing; with Olive and the new thermal-reading technique, "it took just 53 hours," says Dave Jessup, senior veterinary scientist for the California Department of Fish and Game's Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center.....[ More ]

OTTER LUCK:

Using new thermal-imaging techniques to detect escaping body heat, rescue workers can see where oil and other impurities such as soap continue to prevent the otter's highly adapted fur from regaining to its normal water-repellency.....[ More ]

SCRUB DOWN:

 Oil clings to fur and feathers. Here, an otter found on February 21, 2009, that was soiled in a natural oil seepage event off of Monterey Bay, Calif., gets cleaned up at the Department of Fish and Game's Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz.....[ More ]

TARRED AND FEATHERED:

An oiled seabird found after the massive oil spill. Though actual animal casualties will never be known, due to the large geographical area affected by the spill and bodies sinking underwater, estimates said that 40 percent of the pre-spill population of murres—common native black-and-white diving birds—died, according to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council's 2009 Status Report.....[ More ]

OIL CAN'T HIDE:

A new multispectral camera and thermal imager, mounted on aircraft that fly over a spill, can see the oil in ways the human eye cannot. "Oil gives off a different thermal pattern than non-oil," says Steve Edinger, the administrator for the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) at the California Department of Fish and Game.....[ More ]

FLOATING OIL WELL:

The Sirius Star , a modern double-hulled tanker entered into service in 2008, made news recently when Somali pirates hijacked it and its precious cargo last November. As a very large crude carrier (VLCC), it can transport over two million barrels of oil, the equivalent of 84 million gallons (318,000 kiloliters) of crude.....[ More ]

BREACH OF FAITH:

The hull of the oil supertanker Exxon Valdez was ripped open when it ran onto Bligh Reef in Alaska's Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989. 10.8 million gallons (40,900 kiloliters) of oil poured forth, about 20 percent of the ship's hydrocarbon cargo.....[ More ]

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