Effectiveness of mechanical recovery for large offshore oil spills

Mar Pollut Bull. 2021 Feb:163:111848. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2020.111848. Epub 2020 Dec 2.


Mechanical recovery for large offshore oil spills (defined as the marine environment over 10 km from shore outside of bays, lagoons, and marinas) depends on oil behavior, environmental conditions, equipment specifications, and operational issues. These factors limit oil recovery with booms and skimmers. The "rule of thumb" has been that 10-30% of the total oil spilled can be recovered. This paper describes a review of historical oil spills that found only between 2 and 6% of the total oil spilled was recovered. The limiting factors affecting mechanical recovery in offshore settings include environmental conditions, oil behavior, and logistics. Mechanical recovery will always be an important tool for spill response, especially in nearshore and in-port settings, as well as locations with sensitivity to chemical dispersants and/or in situ burning. However, its application in large offshore spills will generally result in recovery of only a fraction of the spilled oil.

Keywords: Efficiency; Mechanical recovery; Oil spill; Percentage; Rule of thumb.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Petroleum Pollution*