Oil spills are disasters that can have severe social, economic, and environmental impacts.
They are the release of crude oil or refined petroleum products from tankers, rigs, wells, and offshore platforms.
These spills are most common in marine environments but can also occur on land. They can have disastrous consequences for local ecosystems, and be expensive due to the loss of oil and the costs involved in their clean-up.
The number of oil spills and the quantity of oil that is spilled from tankers has fallen substantially in recent decades.1
On this page, you can find all our data, visualizations, and writing relating to oil spills. Specifically, this refers to oil spills from tankers – container ships transporting oil – where consistent, high-quality global data is available.
But not all oil spills come from tankers. They can also come from other sites, such as offshore oil rigs and damaged pipelines. The world’s largest (and most well-known) event was Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. This disaster was caused by an explosion in a drilling rig. The US Government estimates that 4.9 million barrels of oil were released (equivalent to around 700,000 tonnes).
Tracking non-tanker oil spills is essential, but we are unaware of any global, updated databases that include this. Filling this gap would be critical to global environmental data and monitoring.