The Basics of Oil Spill Cleanup: 3rd Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Basics of Oil Spill Cleanup

3rd Edition

By Merv Fingas

CRC Press

286 pages | 184 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2012-12-05
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Reflecting the rapid progress in cleanup technology since the previous edition, this revised and expanded third edition of The Basics of Oil Spill Cleanup covers current cleanup techniques, how oil spills are measured and detected, and the properties of the oil and its long-term fate in the environment. It also deals with why, how often, and where oil spills occur as well as the chemical composition and physical properties of various oil types.

The chapters describe surface and remote sensing technologies used to detect and track oil slicks, and methods to contain oil on water (booms and ancillary equipment) and recover oil from the water surface (skimmers, sorbents, and manual recovery). The author discusses the use of pumps, in-situ burning, and chemical agents, such as dispersants, for oil removal. He also addresses oil-contaminated shorelines and the effects and behavior of oil on different ecosystems and the various organisms within them. Written for the general public as well as those directly involved with oil spill cleanup, this edition provides broad, up-to-date knowledge of the cleanup and control of spills.


"The Basics of Oil Spill Cleanup is a classical reference in the field. This third edition has been revised and expanded reflecting the rapid progress in clean-up technology and the techniques available for mitigating the effects of oil spills."

—International Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry, December 2014

"This book is a welcomed update of the second edition … The book provides an excellent introduction for newcomers to the field of oil spills. The book is well-written for the broad audience for which it is intended and would be very useful as a required or recommended textbook for introductory oil spill courses."

—Dr. Carl E. Brown, Environment Canada

"A well written book in which the subject matter is addressed in a comprehensive way and well organized for easy reference. … The text is complemented by excellent photographs, diagrams and tables. Most importantly, the new edition is fully up-to-date, reflecting the latest developments in our knowledge of oil spill clean-up and the techniques available for mitigating the effects of oil spills."

—John McMurtrie, Secretary, International Spill Control Organization

Praise for Previous Editions

"… presents a practical perspective and overview in dealing with on-and off-shore oil spills that can potentially affect sensitive coastal environments and habitats … Certainly when oil spills occur, notably in a highly visible, sensitive and/or media concentrated area, such a book provides a good synopses as to the methods employed when dealing with such circumstances."

—Stephen M. Testa, Testa Environmental Corporation

Table of Contents

Oil Spills: Why Do They Happen and How Often?

How Often Do Spills Occur?

Some Oil Spill Facts

Response to Oil Spills

Oil Spill Contingency Plans

Communication Systems

Oil Spill Cooperatives

Private and Government Response Organizations

Cost Recovery

Types of Oil and Their Properties

The Composition of Oil

Properties of Oil

Correlation between Properties

Behavior of Oil in the Environment

The Importance of Behavior and Fate

An Overview of Weathering

Movement of Oil and Oil Spill Modeling

Analysis, Detection, and Remote Sensing of Oil Spills

The Importance of Analytical and Detection Technologies

Sampling and Laboratory Analysis

Field Analysis

Detection and Surveillance

Remote Sensing

Containment on Water

Types of Booms and Their Construction

Uses of Booms

Boom Failures

Tow Forces

Ancillary Equipment

Sorbent Booms and Barriers

Special Purpose Booms

Oil Recovery on Water



Manual Recovery

Separation, Pumping, Decontamination, and Disposal

Temporary Storage





Spill-Treating Agents


Surface-Washing Agents

Emulsion Breakers and Inhibitors

Recovery Enhancers


Sinking Agents

Biodegradation Agents

In-Situ Burning



Ignition and What Will Burn

Burn Efficiency and Rates

Use of Containment

Emissions from Burning Oil


Shoreline Cleanup and Restoration

Behavior of Oil on Shorelines

Environmental Effects of Oil on Shorelines

Types of Shorelines and Their Sensitivity to Oil

Shoreline Countermeasures Assessment Technique

Shoreline Protection Measures

Cleanup Methods

Oil Spills on Land

Behavior of Oil on Land

Movement of Oil on Land Surface

Movement of Oil in the Subsurface

Habitats and Ecosystems

Cleanup of Surface Spills

Cleanup of Subsurface Spills

Effects of Oil Spills on the Environment

Biological Effects

Aquatic Environments



Damage Assessment


Net Environmental Benefits


Reading for Further Information


About the Author


Merv Fingas, M.Sc., MBA, Ph.D., has worked for more than 38 years in the field of oil spill technology. He was chief of Environment Canada’s Environmental Emergencies Technology Centre in Ottawa for over 30 years. He has conducted research in spill dynamics and behavior, and studies of spill treating agents, in-situ burning of oil, and oil spill chemistry and analysis. Dr. Fingas has authored or coauthored more than 800 technical reports and papers on various aspects of oil or chemical research. These include topics such as oil emulsion formation, oil evaporation, treating agent testing and use, studies of oil analysis and fingerprinting, in-situ burning of oil, oil spill remote sensing, and personal protection equipment. This is his seventh book.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Chemistry / General
SCIENCE / Environmental Science
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Environmental / General