The 1989 US Exxon Oil Spill: Animated explainer

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The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska was one of the biggest U.S. oil spills ever to occur, according to the Atlantic.

It's been thirty years since the waters of Bligh Reef in Alaska were contaminated with more than 11 million gallons of crude oil after an Exxon oil tanker impacted the reef's seabed. Today we revisit how the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill happened.

According to The Atlantic, on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker was entering Alaska's Prince William Sound. It had departed from the Trans Alaska Pipeline terminal on March 23 at 9:12 pm and was carrying 53.1 million gallons of oil.

At 12:04 am the tanker slammed into Bligh Reef, tearing open its hull and spilling 11 million gallons of oil into the water and the surrounding environment. That's the equivalent of 17 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

According to Scientific American, nearly 2,000 kilometers of the shoreline were contaminated. Wildlife in the area was also severely damaged. Thousands of otters, harbor seals, seabirds and fish were killed.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, three methods were used to clean up the spill: burning the oil on the water's surface, mechanical cleanup via oil skimmers and chemical dispersants.

High-pressure hot water was also used to clean the surrounding beaches until it was determined that it was cooking microorganisms present in the shores which in turn damaged the soil.

According to a case study by the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited, Exxon Mobil had to pay $4.3 billion as a consequence of the spill in addition to the $2 billion it spent the first year on clean-up efforts.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill is the second largest spill in history second to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where an explosion at a BP oil rig killed eleven workers and spilled 53,000 barrels of oil per day for three months.


RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Exxon Valdez oil tanker route
2. Exxon Valdez tanker hull breaks open spilling 11 million gallons of oil
3. Shoreline and wildlife damage
4. Methods used to clean oil spill

VOICEOVER (in English):

"According to The Atlantic, on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker was entering Alaska's Prince William Sound. It had departed from the Trans Alaska Pipeline terminal on March 23 at 9:12 pm and was carrying 53.1 million gallons of oil."

"At 12:04 am the tanker slammed into Bligh Reef, tearing open its hull and spilling 11 million gallons of oil into the water and the surrounding environment. That's the equivalent of 17 Olympic-sized swimming pools."

"According to Scientific American, nearly 2,000 kilometers of the shoreline were contaminated. Wildlife in the area was also severely damaged. Thousands of otters, harbor seals, seabirds and fish were killed."

"According to the Environmental Protection Agency, three methods were used to clean up the spill: burning the oil on the water's surface, mechanical cleanup via oil skimmers and chemical dispersants."

SOURCES:
The Atlantic, Scientific American, EPA, International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited
https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2014/03/the-exxon-valdez-oil-spill-25-years-ago-today/100703/
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/environmental-effects-of/
https://www.epa.gov/emergency-response/exxon-valdez-spill-profile
http://www.itopf.org/in-action/case-studies/case-study/exxon-valdez-alaska-united-stated-1989/