Different Types of Oil Spills and How to Respond

Photo of Oil Spill on Pavement

Cleaning up Oil Spills on your Property

What do cars, planes, boats, cooking, and heating have in common? The answer is oil. Oil is used or present in many aspects of everyday life. You use it in the foods you eat, to power your home and for travel, but what you don’t know is the impact oil has on the environment. 

With the amount of oil used each day, oil spills are bound to happen. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, thousands of spills occur in the United States each year alone. They are more common than you may have thought, and have lasting effects on the environment. When the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010—the largest marine oil spill in history—occurred, it took months until the affected areas were safe, but traces were still detectable over ten years later. 

Whether you own a car dealership, a marina, or even a restaurant, accidents can happen, but not all oil spills are the same. There are multiple types of spills with different causes and levels of harm on both us and the environment. We have your guide on all oil spills, how they happen, and how to clean them up.

Photo of Gasoline Can

Class A Oil Spill—Gasoline

Oils have been categorized in various ways to make it easier to know which types are more harmful than others. 

The first one is Class A oil. This type of oil spreads quickly when spilled and is the most toxic. It is also known for its strong odor, thanks to benzene, and its flammable property. Class A oil is harmful to our health and the environment, especially because it is light, soaks into soil, and mixes easily with water. When Class A oils spill into the environment, it is dangerous for wildlife to ingest, inhale, and absorb.

Oils in this class include crude oil, jet fuel, and gasoline. 

Class B Oil Spill—Non-Sticky

Class B oils are also called non-sticky oils because they leave a film on surfaces that dilute and disperse. Like Class A oils, these oils are highly flammable, but will burn longer. While less toxic than Class A oils, Class B oils are longer lasting and can be difficult to clean up when soaked into surfaces or floating on water.

Class B oils include kerosene, which is mostly found in jet fuel. 

Class C Oil Spill—Sticky

Class C oils are heavy and highly sticky, unlike Class B oils. The heavy property means that this oil will not spread quickly nor soak into soil as easily as lighter oils, but they are still dangerous for the environment. Because Class C oils do not dilute in water, it can stick to animals and smother them. The film this category of oils produces can lead to high contamination and is costly to clean up. 

Most crude oils fall into this class. 

Class D Oil Spill

Class D oils are solid oils. Thankfully, they are the least toxic of all the classes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t pose a threat to the environment when spilled. When these oils heat up, they harden and solidify. As a result, Class D oils can smother organisms. You do not want these oils to end up in the ocean because they are nearly impossible to clean up once they harden.

Residual oils and heavy crude oils make up this class. 

Photo of non-petroleum oil being poured into a barrel.

Non-Petroleum Oil Spill

There is one more group of oils that are harmful to the environment. If you have ever cooked, you may be familiar with vegetable oil. This oil may spill from restaurants or factories dealing with food and can cause contamination. Non-petroleum oils break down slowly and can lead to suffocation or dehydration of wildlife. They also easily soak into soil, causing long-lasting damage.

Non-petroleum oils include synthetic oils and oils that come from plants or animal fats. The Environmental Protection Agency, which came up with the categorization of oil spills, regulates this type of oil.

Responding to any Oil Spill

Any of these classes of oils can have immediate or long-term effects on the environment. As a result, it is important to understand how to respond and clean up in the event of an oil spill of any kind. 

First and foremost, you want to have your personal protective equipment (PPE) around to avoid harmful contact to your body. You also need to remove any equipment that can be damaged by the fuel. Failure to do so will only add to the cost of the clean up. If possible, try to contain the oil spill to stop any further exposure or spread.

These are the initial steps to take to stop an oil spill. We recommend calling our OPG+ Quick Response Team. We can help reduce the risk of hazardous or flammable chemicals using a natural solution that uses the power of bioremediation to turn the contaminants into CO2 and water. You can reach us at 844-444-8899.

OPG+ Schools Each Oil Class

Today’s lesson was about each class of oil spills and the harm they cause to us and the environment. The best way to respond is to set up an oil spill response plan and act fast.

OPG+ can help clean up any spill that poses a risk to you and the environment. Schedule a 24/7 Quick Response Cleanup Service today!