25 Years Ago Today: Iraq Floods Oil into Gulf

On 25th January 1991, Iraq opened the dockside taps of Kuwait’s Sea Island coastal oil refinery, emptying millions of gallons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf.

Read more in my revised “Forgotten Voices Gulf War One” Kindle book.

This was one of the largest oil spills in history. It was carried out (apparently) in an attempt to stop the US Marines from landing along the polluted coastline. As they intended to attack by land, up the coastal strip, this was a doubly futile and irresponsible action.

Later, three other sources of oil were discovered: tanker ships, a damaged Kuwait oil refinery, and Iraq’s Mina Al Bakr terminal.

The next day, three US F-117 fighter-bomber aircraft destroyed the pipelines preventing further oil from reaching the Gulf. But the damage was done.

The oil slick was five inches think in places, and spread over 100 by 40 miles. This was several times larger by volume than the Exxon Valdez oil spillage at Bligh Reef Alaska; between 2m and 6m gallons of oil (according to government and commercial estimates).

The environmental effects were played down at the time, with reports that half of the oil had evaporated and large amounts were recovered. There was no clean-up operation after the war was over.  More recent reports indicate more serious long term effects, with the oil having penetrated down into the sands, permanently polluting the extensive marches and salt flats.




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