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Map: Oil and Gas Spills in the U.S. Since 2010

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Map of Oil and Gas spills in the U.S. since 2010

Mapped: Oil and Gas Spills in the U.S. Since 2010

The recent energy crisis has highlighted the integral role that hydrocarbons play in fueling the modern world, but these fossil fuels still come with their fair share of downsides.

Aside from the obvious climate impact they bring, one other downside in particular is spills, which can lead to ecological and economic damage. These can happen due to pipeline leaks, train derailments, or other industrial disasters.

This graphic from Preyash Shah provides a visual overview of every oil and gas spill in the contiguous U.S. since 2010. Data is tracked by the U.S. government’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

U.S. Oil and Gas Spills (2010‒2022)

The majority of spills that have occurred come mostly from crude oil, followed by petroleum products and gas. Note that this data covers the quantity of spills and not damages or volume.

Spills by Product TypePortion of all U.S. Spills
Crude oil51%
Petroleum products32%
Diesel14%
Gasoline13%
Others5%
Highly volatile liquids & flammable gas16%
Liquefied petroleum gas / natural gas liquids8%
Other highly volatile liquids6%
Anhydrous ammonia2%
Others3%
Carbon dioxide2%
Biofuel1%
Data figures add to 102% due to rounding errors, bolded figures represent the sum of subcategories

Crude oil, which makes up just over half of documented spills, is also one of the most costly. Contaminations can persist for years after a spill, and its impact on local mammals and waterfowl is particularly harsh.

This has been the case with the Deepwater Horizon spill (also known as the “BP oil spill”), which experts say is still causing harm in the Gulf of Mexico.

Other products with lots of spills include petroleum products such as diesel or gasoline, as well as liquefied natural gas or other volatile liquids. Interestingly, liquefied carbon dioxide can also be transported in pipelines, commonly used for carbon capture storage, but requires high pressure to maintain its state.

When looking at the location of spills, it’s clear that the South Central states have experienced the highest number of disasters. In contrast, the West Coast has had substantially less activity. However, this makes much more sense when looking at the dominant oil producing states, where Texas and surrounding neighbors reign supreme.

RankStateOil & Gas Spills (2010-2022)
1Texas1936
2Oklahoma407
3Louisiana297
4California253
5Kansas208
6Illinois181
7Wyoming155
8New Jersey128
9New Mexico114
10North Dakota98
11Indiana93
12Minnesota83
13Ohio82
14Pennsylvania71
15Iowa66
16Missouri65
17Michigan56
18Colorado55
19Mississippi53
20Montana46
21Wisconsin42
22Alabama36
23Arkansas33
24Newbraska31
25Georgia28
26Virginia27
27North Carolina24
28Kentucky21
29South Carolina19
30Alaska16
30New York16
32Tennessee15
33South Dakota14
33Washington14
35Florida13
36Maryland11
37Utah9
38Idaho8
38Oregon8
40Hawaii7
41West Virginia6
42Massachesueuts3
43Conneticut2
43Maine2
43Nevada2
43Puerto Rico2
47Arizona0
47Delaware0
47New Hampshire0
47Vermont0

Of the 4,901 spills during this period, Texas accounts for 1,936 or roughly 40% of all oil and gas spills. This is followed by Oklahoma, which has had 407 spills and is one of the largest net exporters of oil and gas in the country.

What Causes Spills?

Oil and gas spills actually have a surprisingly long history, with one of the earliest dating back to 1889, when a spill was reported on the coast between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Causes have consisted primarily of weather, natural disasters, equipment and technological malfunction, as well as human error.

However, they only became a widespread problem around the halfway mark of the 20th century, when petroleum extraction and production really began to take off. This era also saw the emergence of supertankers, which can transport half a million tons of oil but therefore make the risk of spills even costlier.

In fact, the biggest spill off U.S. waters after the Deepwater Horizon disaster is the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, when a tanker crashed into a reef and 11 million gallons of oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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