Chennai oil spill: Know what oil spill means, remedies to contain it

Chennai oil spill: What the oil spill means and remedies to contain it

The Oil Spill

  • An oil spill is the leakage of oil into the ocean or coastal waters. 
  • On January 28, 2017, two merchant vessels collided near Ennore Port, Chennai. This led to the oil from one of the vessels leaking into the waters. The vessels were carrying petroleum oil lubricant (POL). The Ennore Port is at a distance of about 30 kilometres from Chennai. The intensity of the disaster became clear only when thick layers of oil hit the Chennai shoreline on January  31.

Impact of oil spill

  • Oil spills affects plumage of seabirds. When their plumage gets soaked with the oil, the insulating ability of their feathers is reduced drastically and the birds become vulnerable to minor change in temperature. Oil penetration also makes them less buoyant in water. 
  • The consumption of oil leads to kidney damage, dehydration and loss of other bodily functions.
  • The oil floating on the top of the water reduces penetration of sunlight in sea water affecting aquatic plants.

Recovery from oil spills depends on three factors

  • Type of the oil spilled 
  • Temperature of the water which may affect the evaporation and biodegradation.
  • Type of shore line involved.

The administration has pressed in Super suckers to remove the oil spill. Super suckers are machines used by Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewage Board to clear silt. The Coast Guard and local fishermen are helping the district administration clear the spill manually with buckets.


  • It is a  recovery method to control oil spill where oil-eating bacteria are used.  There are three kinds of oil-consuming bacteria namely: Sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), Acid-producing bacteria and General aerobic bacteria (GAB). 
  • In this technique, five different bacterial strains that are immobilized and mixed  with a carrier material like powdered corncob. This mixture of five bacteria is called ‘Oil Zapper’. Oil zapper feeds on hydrocarbon compounds present in crude oil and the hazardous hydrocarbon waste generated by oil refineries, known as ‘Oil Sludge’. The bacteria converts this sludge into harmless CO2 and water. The Oil zapper  is neatly packed into sterile polythene bags and sealed aseptically for  safe transport. The shelf life of the product is three months at ambient temperature.  
  • When a similar incident occurred in 2010 near the Mumbai coast involving two vessels colliding, leading to 400 tonnes of oil being spilled into the sea before  the leak could be plugged. The ‘Oil zapper’ bacteria was used as a      bioremediation technique during this incident.