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Response to Oil Spills

Robert P. Stevens, P.E., DEE

Course Outline

This two-hour course introduces planning and response approaches for response to oil spills. It presents the key factors for planning response approaches including factors for contingency planning, an introduction to the National Response System, and factors to be considered for shoreline cleanup of an oil spill. Response approaches are described with some detail on when and why they can be effective. The National Contingency Plan Product Schedule is introduced which identifies additives that are available for responding to an oil spill.

The information will enable the student to improve planning and response efforts described in planning documents such as Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans, Best Management Practices (BMP) Plans, and Storm Water Pollution Prevention (SWPP) Plans.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this two hour course, the student will

Course Introduction

Preventing oil spills is the best strategy for avoiding potential damage to human health and the environment. However, once a spill occurs, the best approach for containing and controlling the spill is to respond quickly and in a well organized manner. There is a defined hierarchy for spill response, beginning at the facility level and including government responders and decision-makers. A response will be quick and organized if response measures have been planned ahead of time. A number of advanced response mechanisms are available for controlling oil spills and minimizing their impacts on human health and the environment. The key to effectively combating spills is careful selection and proper use of the equipment and materials best suited to the type of oil and the conditions at the spill site. Mechanical approaches to contain and/or recover the oil are the primary line of defense against oil spills in the United States. Additives can be used in conjunction with mechanical means for containing and cleaning up oil spills provided they are approved by the Federal On Scene Coordinator.

Course Content

The course content is in a PDF file (86 KB) Response to Oil Spills. You need to open or download this document to study this course.

Course Summary

Response to oil spills begins with defined planning requirements for potential sources of oil spills and for designated response agencies. The overall program for this planning effort includes:

A number of response mechanisms are available for controlling oil spills and minimizing their impacts on human health and the environment. A brief description of major response techniques is summarized including:

The approach for addressing oil spills is described in the National Contingency Plan (40 CFR Part 300). One significant aspect of the NCP is the listing in a Product Schedule the chemicals and additives that are available for oil spill response. A brief description of the Product Schedule is summarized including:

Related Links

For additional technical information related to this subject, please visit the following websites and links:

US EPA Oil Program (

The above site includes links to laws and regulations, Facility Response Plans and Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plans, and other oil-related sites.


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered professional engineer. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.