BP Oil Spill vs. Exxon Valdez: Which is worse?

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Difference between BP Oil Spill and Exxon Valdez

Oil spills are probably some of the most devastating man-made disasters to occur, particularly from the standpoint of marine environmentalists. The Exxon Valdez oil occurred more than twenty years ago but its effects are still being felt to this very day. Imagine then the uproar at the recent BP oil spill, which many are predicting will have even more serious consequences. Let's take a look at the damage wrought by each.

BP Oil Spill
Exxon Valdez

Cause And Source Of Oil

The source of oil in the Exxon Valdez oil spill was one of the company’s tankers, which spilled its cargo after hitting a submerged reef. The accident occurred on March 24, 1989, and the leak was mostly confined to the surface of the ocean.

The BP oil spill on the other hand, was a very recent occurrence caused when a heavily damagedwell pipe burstcausing an explosion on the oil platform owned by Deepwater Horizon, releasing oil 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. The BP oil spill began on April 20, 2010.


The Exxon Valdez oil spill was a major catastrophe to be sure, but it at least had the advantage of being limited to a single–albeit huge–tanker. As much as 10.8 million gallons of oil were spilled into the ocean on that day, covering an area of more than 1,300 square miles.

As for the BP oil spill, the fact that it is such a recent occurrence means that there is no telling how much oil will be spilled and how extensive the damage will be. In any case, things don’t portend well for the region, with at least 210,000 gallons being poured into the ocean every day. What's worse is that the amount is still increasing and this will go on until the leak is fully plugged. As of April 30, 2010, the spill had already covered an area of 400 square miles.

Damage Caused

The Exxon Valdez oil spill has affected various animal and plant species living in and around the coast, including brown pelicans, egrets, terns, sperm whales, tuna, sea turtles and more. The spill also resulted in the death of as many as 250,000 seabirds, including 247 bald eagles. The spill also severely affected the fishing and tourism industries in the area, as well as the local residents’ livelihoods. Lawsuits against Exxon were tied up court for 20 years.

As for the BP oil spill, it also affected virtually all the same species that the Exxon Valdez oil spill affected, although the full extent of the damage will not be known for many months or years to come. At current, BP is pointing its finger at the rig owner, Deepwater Horizon. 60 Minutes featured testimony of a rig worker who claims BP officials overrode rig operations and forced a ‘speedy’ grand opening rather than consider the consequences of several broken parts needing repair prior to commencement.

Similarities and Differences

Exxon Valdez

  • Oil spill was caused by an Exxon Valdez oil tanker hitting a reef and occurred in March 24, 1989
  • Leak was mostly confined to the surface
  • As much as 10.8 million gallons spilled and covereda total area of 1,300 square miles
  • Affected numerous birds and marine creatures including brown pelicans, reddish egrets, sperm whales, tuna, and sea turtle
  • Also severely affected commercial fishing, recreation, tourism, and many other local industries

BP oil spill

  • Caused by a broken well pipe with a subsequent explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform
  • Safety concerns of crew were overlooked by BP official
  • Occurred on April 20, 2010
  • Leak occurred 5,000 feet below the ocean surface
  • Spill estimated at 210,000 gallons a day, though this estimate may be conservative
  • Covers an area of 400 square miles as of April 30, 2010, and it is still growing
  • Affected numerous wildlife species including most of those affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill
  • Full extent of the damage and its long term effects have yet to be determined

Comparison of BP Oil Spill and Exxon Valdez Video

source: youtube.com

comments 37 Comments

  • Lisa . 3+ yrs. ago

I saw 60 minutes and felt so bad about BP **** up the whole thing. They need to take responsibility for their decisions.

  • Lynn . 3+ yrs. ago

BP's oil spill is a lot worse than Exxon Valdez.

  • Rust T. . 3+ yrs. ago

FYI BP owned all the oil that leaked from the Exxon Valdez, they were partly to blame for that disaster too: budget cut backs - reduced crew sizes and bad equipment>

  • Thanks Lynn . 3+ yrs. ago

Lynn, Im not sure why this article was even written. Your expertise is appreciated for all of us regular folk. Also, please advise on the meaning of life.

  • Matt . 3+ yrs. ago

They may need to use Hollywood solve the problem. Apparently, Kevin Costner invested $24 million in stainless steel centrifugal oil separators to purify Oil Contaminated Water.

  • Eddie . 3+ yrs. ago

For our sake, and I say that as a Floridian, I pray Kevin Costner's contamination cleaning contraption works!!!

  • Joe . 3+ yrs. ago

Just heard that BP's 'Top Kill' is the top failure. I think we need to wait for Kevin Costner to rescue us again(in real life).

  • David . 3+ yrs. ago

Kevin Costner testified before Congress yesterday. He discussed on how he can help clean up the spill. He said that he is very confident that the steel centrifugal machines in his company, Ocean Therapy Solutions, can separate water from crude oil.

Damage already done, not sure what he can do now. We need to be very proactive and invest in this technology to minimize any possible future Catastrophes

  • Laura . 3+ yrs. ago

why hasn't the government come down hard on the watchdog agencies and oil industry? there's no end in sight and we aren't hearing much about who's going to take responsibility for this insane disaster.

  • Chuck . 3+ yrs. ago

Is BP, British Petroleum or Beyond Petroleum?

  • Wong Lee . 3+ yrs. ago

It started as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1909.

They changed the name to British Petroleum Company in 1954.

Merged with Amoco in 1998.

Company adopted the tagline(not company name) "Beyond Petroleum" in 2001.

  • Samuel . 3+ yrs. ago


  • Brooke . 3+ yrs. ago

Wasn't BP involved in the Valdez spill too?

  • Kim . 3+ yrs. ago

Exxon owned the tanker that was damaged during Valdez disaster in 1989.

According to The Associated Press "BP owned a controlling interest in the Alaska oil industry consortium that was required to write a cleanup plan and respond to the spill two decades ago…investigations that followed the Valdez disaster blamed both Exxon and Alyeska for a response that was bungled on many levels."

  • someyoungguy . 3+ yrs. ago

This article is worthless in regard to content relating to the title! Compare: A is this size B is this size B is ongoing, so add blank per day! No some long winded book report with no actual A is this, B is that.

  • Andy . 3+ yrs. ago

I am sorry to see the damage that the spill is creating... i have friends in the gulf and they are afraid it will damage the fragile nature and pristine sands that they have to offer they rest of the world. I live in canada and for everyones sake i hope someone can solve this a.s.a.p.

  • borris . 3+ yrs. ago

I am sorry to see the damage that the spill is creating... i have friends in the gulf and they are afraid it will damage the fragile nature and pristine sands that they have to offer they rest of the world. I live in canada and for everyones sake i hope someone can solve this a.s.a.p. Andy i knew this when i was 5 yrs old!!!!

  • Marshall Brown . 3+ yrs. ago

The White House says that the BP oil spill is probably the greatest environmental disaster the US has ever faced.

Bobby Jindal,Louisiana governor, said that so far 1/3rd of coast(more than 100 miles) had been polluted.

According to Washington Post, Obama administration moves to distance itself from BP on oil spill. It does not make sense to point Obama on oil disaster. However, you can't distance yourself from the worst disaster to gain political points. This is not the change you promised.

  • Frank . 3+ yrs. ago

This is not correct, Obama's administration is working on options to enact legislation against the oil industry. Of course, whether he will succeed is another story.

  • borris . 3+ yrs. ago

This is not correct, Obama's administration is working on options to enact legislation against the oil industry. Of course, whether he will succeed is another story. NO!!!!! u r wrong!!!!!!!!!

  • Chandran Sukumaran . 3+ yrs. ago

Exxon Valdez was a prelude to more serious environmental tragedy. BP oil spill will have world wide implications. It's about time we think about an alternative energy to replace fosssil fuels. Man has raped nature and we are paying for it.

  • Rob . 3+ yrs. ago

Just saw BP ad in TV, they are trying to control the damaged damage. They are planning to spend $50 million on television advertising. This is really ridiculous, we don't care about your phony ad messages, we want you to fix the issue. Why don't you spend $50 million on fixing efforts.

  • Laura . 3+ yrs. ago

So we're looking at 630,000 gallons of oil per day, every day until sometime in August. Summer heat plus hurricanes added to that. Who will be to blame when the mess gets exponentially messier? If I can't be there to help cleanup or effectively pressure my congressman to do something at the government level, at least I can make positive intentions for a clean, pristine, vibrant Earth and find some insightful information published by the NRDC.

  • aguy . 3+ yrs. ago

11 human beings died. that's the biggest tragedy.

  • David C . 3+ yrs. ago

Britishers ignored the tragedy till now, they believed this was an American tragedy. Now, they are feeling the after effects. Today, BP's share price opened 11 percent down in London, it is a 13-year low. Today, Obama administration also demanded to scrap dividend payments.

Britishers are now accusing Obama administration for punishing a foreign company unfairly. Really? They didn't have an adequate plan to deal with this spill. They didn't anticipate this much oil hitting the coast. BP was not proactive, basically BP was a real disaster. It is fair to punish BP. I hope US government would teach all the oil companies a lesson so that this kind of tragedy will not happen again.

  • stock block . 3+ yrs. ago

why did goldman sachs drop a ton of high quality bp stocks 2 days before the oil "spill"? i smell something fishy.

  • Randy . 3+ yrs. ago

Yes, that's true. In the first quarter of 2010, Goldman Sachs sold 4,680,822 shares of BP.

  • stock block . 3+ yrs. ago

i wish the front page would show this and BP's CEO cashing in of 1/3 of his stock in BP a few weeks prior to the spill too. where is anderson cooper??

  • stock block . 3+ yrs. ago

unbelievable!! 2.5 million gallons of oil are gushing into the gulf daily. no end in sight. bloody right bp deserves a good dose of justice for this.

  • AB . 3+ yrs. ago

BP is 39% US owned, the rig that caused the problem was American owned and crewed, it was drilling to satify an American demand for oil so why are the "Britishers" getting all the flack for this? Exxon Valdez - American owned - locals and people performing the clear up not being compensated yet 20 years down the line. Amoco Cadiz - American owned - google it, probably too old for most readers also check out Torrey Canyon - American owned check it out - don't think the coastal population of the UK got any compensation for these disasters from the "Americaners" Why is Mr Obama majoring on this one - why did Goldman Sachs sell out - what is he trying to really hide here???

  • GO . 3+ yrs. ago

It seems most people do not realize that our own Government regulates and oversees the safety precautions that our major oil producers must obide by. Boy, they are sure quick to place blame and point fingers. This is our Government covering up its own mess. YOU CANNOT TRUST ANYONE!

  • nobp . 3+ yrs. ago

still spewing oil.. bp should go down for this..

  • rishiu98 . 3+ yrs. ago

new tally. 4.4 million gallons spilled. sure. bp wants to drill an even riskier hole in the north pole region of alaska... how long will they be blocked.

  • That Person That Corrects Things . 3+ yrs. ago

Two corrections here; first to correct a tidbit from the article: the oil platform was named Deepwater Horizon, it and it's sister deepwater drilling platform (Deepwater Nautilus) are owned and designed by the Transocean company. Secondly, though on the same note, BP was renting the Deepwater Horizon platform from Transocean at the time; though they are to blame for badly trained crew and slow response, they had nothing to do with the design of the rig or it's equipment. Don't get me wrong, BP has some serious damage to account for, but maybe Transocean could watch a few American cartoons and find that having ONE valve that overrides all of the fail-safes is never a good idea.

  • Abraham . 3+ yrs. ago

Bp oil spill needs to do more than what they have done

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