How Oil Spills Get Cleaned Up

Cleaning up an oil spill requires a sense of urgency, strategy, and professionals who know where to begin. We have all seen how oil spills can devastate both animals and people that live in the region. Because of the catastrophic consequences, oil spills should be responded to without hesitation and with qualified support. Here are examples of methods that may be used to clean up an oil spill:

Chemical Dispersants

A plane or vessel may disperse chemical compounds that break down the oil into smaller fragments, enabling them to mix more readily with the water or be eaten by microbes present in the water already. A chemical dispersant may be used in situations where much of the oil is resting at the surface and there is concern for it drifting into areas that affect wildlife, birds, or vulnerable habitats.


The process that eradicates oil from the sea surface before reaching sensitive areas along the coastline is called skimming. Two boats may work together to tow a collection boom, allowing oil to concentrate and get picked up by the skimmers. Skimmer devices may be floating drums or spinning disks that aim to remove the oil layer from the water surface. Skimmers are effective in attracting oil to the top before being suctioned into a collection tank.

Situ Oil Burning

Situ burning is a process where spilled oil is burned from its exact location on the ocean. Similar to skimming, a couple of boats work in tandem to tow a collection of fire-retardant booms, gathering enough oil to burn. It is imperative to consider air flow and direction so that residue or smoke from the burn doesn’t collide with wildlife or civilians nearby.

As our oil spill cleanup associates from Nielsen Environmental understand, oil spills can have tragic effects on ecosystems and the species that reside there. Prompt action is warranted in any and all situations where oil has spilled into a natural body of water.