THEGREENGROK    Statistically Speaking

Statistically Speaking: How Much Exxon Valdez Oil Remains?

by Bill Chameides | March 20th, 2009
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

Permalink | 3 comments


When it comes to oil spills, a little can do a lot of damage. The Exxon Valdez wasn’t a huge spill compared to others, but its oil has persisted in the environment of the Prince William Sound, wreaking havoc on its wildlife.

Oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill continues to threaten wildlife and fish in the Prince William Sound ecosystem (see our post from Wednesday). But how much oil is left?

Estimated oil spilled (in gallons): 11 million
Estimated oil remaining (in gallons): 21,000
Number of gallons of oil needed to heat your home for one year: 3,733
Number of gallons of oil consumed driving your car for one year: 1,260
Number of gallons needed to kill a small bird: 0.003
Number of gallons needed to kill a salmon egg: 0.000002


Energy Information Administration

One barrel of crude oil contains 42 gallons. One barrel of crude oil produces about 44 gallons of petroleum products, including almost 20 gallons of gas and nine gallons of heating oil. Average car uses 600 gallons of gas annually. Average home uses 800 gallons of heating oil per year.


Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council –
Dr. Jeffery Short, personal communication
What a Barrel of Oil Makes –

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  1. Daniel Wedgewood
    Mar 31, 2009

    Dr. Chameides, If 0.003 gallons of oil kills a small bird, is it then “used up,” or does it continue to pose a hazard to the next small bird? In other words, would that 21,000 gallons of remaining oil hypothetically kill 7,000,000 small birds, and then it would be gone, or would it continue to kill more (like radiation)? Dan

    • Bill Chameides (Editor)
      Mar 31, 2009

      The Exxon Valdez disaster spilled 10.8 million gallons of oil into the marine environment, and impacted more than 1,100 miles of non-continuous Alaskan coastline. State and Federal agencies continue to monitor the effects of this spill, which was the largest oil spill in U.S. history. But the amount of oil from this incident released but a thimble full of oil when compared to another oil disaster that impacted the United States in the Gulf of Mexico. Ixtoc I, blew out on June 3, 1979 in the Bay of Campeche off Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico. By the time the well was brought under control in March, 1980, an estimated 140 million gallons of oil (140 times more oil than the Exxon Valdez spill) had spewed into the bay. The Ixtoc I spill is currently #2 on the all-time list of largest oil spills of all time, and devasted the coastlines of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, ruining the economy and coastal fisheries of those states for years. Unlike the Exxon Valdez accident, federal assistance made no effort to cleanup the Ixtoc I shorelines, nor pursue legal action against the well owners (Mexico’s Pemex) which refused to reimburse any cleanup efforts paid for by the American gulf coastal states. 29 years later, we have nearly recovered from that disaster, and I’m a firm believer in time the environment where the Exxon Valdez spilled a thimble full of oil will recover as we have, in spite of all the notoriety, media publicity, and federal money that has been thrown at it.

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