Oil tankers sunk



  • This is not a political question, this is for info.  The germans sunk a ton of our oil tankers right in the Gulf, it was the prime target - I think we can all agree on that.  How much oil did get dumped into the ocean?  Recent events say how bad things are in the Gulf, but I keep coming back to ww2 and the U-boat campaign.  I can’t see how after 4 years of war and untold amount of oil being spilled across the globe can be smaller than what is going on now.  I have read up on WW2 since I was a kid, and I have never heard of any kind of damage being done because of oil tankers being sunk.  I know there was no clean up - no resources for it, there was a world war going on.  I don’t know that for a fact, but I think it is a good bet there wasn’t.

    I could be wrong, anyone have any info on this?  Or at least the numbers of how much oil was spilled off our coast during WW2 (and other places if you happen to know).

    And was the oil refined?  That could be the difference too.  Maybe refined oil isn’t as toxic - I have no idea really.



  • I’ve wondered the same things.



  • @Zooey72:

    This is not a political question, this is for info.  The germans sunk a ton of our oil tankers right in the Gulf, it was the prime target - I think we can all agree on that.  How much oil did get dumped into the ocean?  Recent events say how bad things are in the Gulf, but I keep coming back to ww2 and the U-boat campaign.  I can’t see how after 4 years of war and untold amount of oil being spilled across the globe can be smaller than what is going on now.  I have read up on WW2 since I was a kid, and I have never heard of any kind of damage being done because of oil tankers being sunk.  I know there was no clean up - no resources for it, there was a world war going on.  I don’t know that for a fact, but I think it is a good bet there wasn’t.

    I could be wrong, anyone have any info on this?  Or at least the numbers of how much oil was spilled off our coast during WW2 (and other places if you happen to know).

    And was the oil refined?  That could be the difference too.  Maybe refined oil isn’t as toxic - I have no idea really.

    Well, keep in ming that an oil tanker probably held only a few hundred gallons, and maybe a few hundred were sunk. Currently, the spill is 1.5-2.5 MILLION PER DAY. One day of this spill is more destructive than 4 years of war.



  • I am not sure how much they held, but I am sure it is in the 1000s of barrels - not hundreds of gallons.  That aside, oil tankers were the main target for any sub (not an opinion, a fact) and I would be curious to know the other parts of the world that had serious oil dumpage.  Japan attacked us (mostly) because we exported oil to them and threatened to stop exporting exporting.  A lot of oil got dumped into the pacific when our subs sunk their gravy train of oil from borneo.  Last I checked, their is still sea life in the pacific.

    Again, I don’t know diddly about this - why I am asking the question.  I can see there being a difference between refined oil and crude.  IF crude is worse, than ya - this is a huge enviormental disaster.  If not than I think this whole thing is being dramatized for politics (on both sides).  I just can not imagine 4 years of intentional sinking of ships that carried oil is less than a few months of one hole spewing oil into the Gulf.


  • '12

    The United states did not threated to stop sending oil to Japan……They DID stop sending oil to Japan in august 1041 over Japan’s invovlement in China and the seizure of Indochina.  Since the US supplied 80% of Japan’s oil it forced Japan to choose between rolling over and dying or fighting.  Many Japanese militiary officers viewed this as an undeclared act of war.  You’d think the US would have anticipated a negative and probable military response.

    I’d image most of the oil taken from the ground in WWII would have been of high quality light sweet texas crude and therefore less toxic.  After some initial tanker losses to u-boats an continental pipeline was created to pipe the oil from texas to the east coast thus eliminating much of the tanker targets.  When tankers were sunk, often the oil burned, and since the oil was concentrated it could burn most of it.  When oil floats up from a mile under and is acted on with dispersents at the source it is much harder to burn or collect.

    Typical American WWII tankers held about 140,000 barrels cargo.  In the entire Pacific during the entire WWII period, only 333 oil tankers were sunk, 85% or so of them Japanese and most likely with a smaller average capacity.  http://www.sprep.org/publication/webpage/004ship_waste_ww2/WWII_Strategy/_private/Strategy_Report_May_03.doc

    Here we go again with my text box screen jumping up and down with every key stroke…ugh

    Last I checked there was lots of life around the Chernobyl reactor, well except for human life.  Just cause there is life somewhere does not imply its a great place for human life.


  • '12

    So, current estimates of oil leaking in the gulf range from 35K-60K barrels per day, lets say 45K, so that is roughly a large WWII US tanker sinking every 3 days with its entire contents leaking out over 3 days in the exact same spot and repeat this for 20 tankers sinking and counting.  The average tanker sinking in the Pacific occured every 5-6 days and was on average smaller then the average WW II US tanker cited in my example.  So easily 2-3 times the daily average of oil spilled in the gulf of mexico compared to the oil lost during entire pacific campaign during WW II and all in one location.

    Many WW II tankers sunk still contain much of their cargo and are cause for concern even now as they rot away and get ready to spew their cargo.



  • My understanding is that crude spills are generally less of a problem per unit spilled than refined. I’m going to search for sources on this later today for you guys.


  • '12

    Hmmm, I am no expert on this, actually don’t know much about it at all.  Therefore I am now going to offer my opinion on the subject 🙂  If it was refined and a ‘thinner’ product it would be easier to burn off and or evaporate.  I think the raw stuff out of the ground might have lots of toxic aspects to it that get refined out.  It’s actually pretty amazing how much of a barrel of raw crude gets used.  Since Iraq and Iran have old outdated facilities I think they might only utilize about 60% (if memory serves me correctly) of the barrel, the rest is burned off or discarded.  In modern facilities I think they used like 99% and I would suspect some of the toxic aspects are actually profitable when seperated.



  • @MrMalachiCrunch:

    So, current estimates of oil leaking in the gulf range from 35K-60K barrels per day, lets say 45K, so that is roughly a large WWII US tanker sinking every 3 days with its entire contents leaking out over 3 days in the exact same spot and repeat this for 20 tankers sinking and counting.  The average tanker sinking in the Pacific occured every 5-6 days and was on average smaller then the average WW II US tanker cited in my example.  So easily 2-3 times the daily average of oil spilled in the gulf of mexico compared to the oil lost during entire pacific campaign during WW II and all in one location.

    Many WW II tankers sunk still contain much of their cargo and are cause for concern even now as they rot away and get ready to spew their cargo.

    Not to mention the much larger size of the Pacific Ocean compared to the Gulf of Mexico.  Overall, there’s a much larger concentration of oil in the Gulf right now than WWII ever came close to producing.



  • As a utility contractor I can offer a few tid-bits on this matter.

    Volume, pressures and depth are no where near the same now as they were then. As tech progressed we got better at all three.  When you go surveying for for oil (or natural gas like I have experience with) they tend to progress together fairly evenly.  Since that site is about two miles under water that puts the other two categories proportionately high as well.

    Also worth noting they have a 22 inch drill casing bellowing “peanut-butter textured” oil (or so I have read in trade magazines recently) into the gulf.  Up until the 70’ I think 2-1/2 or 3 inch casings were the standard.  Even if the casing was bigger say for example a five inch casing is was still reduces to 3 inches to go through the pump systems.  All fire engines still do this today.

    (Not that this has come up so far but…)  I’m not sure when off-shore drilling became popular but even then we didn’t need to because of the number of land based oil sites at the time. So this factor can totally be eliminated from this equation.

    As far as transporting goes a U-haul size box truck was the standard method of travel on land then not the 53 foot tractor-trailers we commonly see today.  Your container ships have evolved in much the same way.  So each loss would be marginally smaller. To put things into perspective the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in Alaska was estimated at 10.8 million gallons.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill

    Lastly I think it should be worth noting that the demand for oil although great wasn’t like it is today.  Most US tanks at the time ranged 3-4 gallons per mile (not miles per gallon) and ran off of a 8 cylinder gasoline engine. When the US entered WWII we only had 15 modern tanks.

    So every thing was at a much smaller scale then as far as harvesting and consuming oil goes.

    LT


  • Official Q&A 2007 AAR League

    The problem is what is happening in the Gulf is misnamed with the word ‘spill.’ It is an underwater volcano of oil.

    A sunk freighter is knocking over a pitcher of water. While the catastrophe in the Gulf is tearing off a fire hydrant with no shut off.



  • @timerover51:

    Your typical WW2 tanker ran between 10,000 and 15,000 tons, with a few as large as 25,000 tons.  There is about 7 barrels of oil to the ton, so you are looking at somewhere between 70,000 barrels to 175,000 barrels per tanker.  Much of the oil in tankers that were sunk was refined products, chiefly gasoline (motor and higher octane aviation gasoline), diesel, and kerosene.  That tended to burn quite nicely when torpedoed.  The Japanese did use raw crude oil from some of the Indonesian fields that was of sufficient high grade to burn directly as boiler fuel, and did have problems with the accompanying vapor explosions, such as the one that destroyed the carrier Taiho.  Refined products are considerably less toxic than raw crude, which can range from high-quality West Texas oil to the high-grade sludge produced by Venezuela.  Raw crude contains the full spectrum of oil products in varying amounts, along with a host of contaminants such as sulphur, various metals, bromine, methane in solution, waxes of various kinds, etc.  A refinery is typically optimized to refine a given type of crude, and will actually produce more than a barrel of products from a barrel of crude as a consequence of the adding of hydrogen to the heavier high-carbon crude fractions to produce lighter fractions such as gasoline, kerosene, and diesel oil which take up a larger volume than the high-carbon fractions.

    The tanker losses in WW2 were spread over the entire ocean area of the world, and over a period of 7 years, and occurred as one time events for the area the ship was sunk in.  Much of the oil was refined products.  What you have in the Gulf presently is a concentrated spill in both location and time, with continuous effects on the environment.  It is not a one-time event, but a continuous stream of oil hitting the wetlands, marshes, beaches, and ocean bottom.  Based on the Exxon Valdez spill, the long term effects are not going to be known for several years or possibly decades.  The Gulf ecosystems that are being effected by the oil are likely never to return to a pre-spill state, or if they do, it will be many decades in the future.

    Very insightful thank you,

    LT


  • '12

    I’ll second that, rather insightful.  Thanks timerover51.


  • Customizer

    I want to point out the great contribution of the American railroads in counterring the effects of “operation drumbeat” and the German anti-shipping campaign by their subs.  At the time of WW2 most railroad tank cars were of 8,000 to 10,000 gallon capacity.  Between the time of the first sub attacks and the building of the two pipelines all the way from the oil sources in Texas to the NorthEast coast, the railroads hauled solid “tank trains” of up to 100+ tank cars in a very expeditious manner and basically “saved our bacon”.  I’d be more than happy to discuss any railroad history anytime.  Thanks,  “Tall Paul”


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