What Types Of Oil Spills Are There?

Wednesday 20th March 2024

Joanna Grimbley-Smith

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A close-up of a puddle of oil CONTENTS

Whether they happen in the workplace, your garage, your back garden, or in the ocean, oil spills can make for a very dangerous situation and have lasting consequences. Responding promptly and in the appropriate way for the type of oil that has spilled and where it has spilled is critical to keep people safe and minimise damage to the surrounding property and environment. 

Here at ICE Cleaning, we have oil spill cleaning specialists stationed across the UK who are available 24/7, 365 days a year including bank holidays to clean up any kind of oil spill. Our fully qualified technicians have many years of experience cleaning up a range of oils including kerosene, diesel, gasoline, transformer oil, and hydraulic oil

Read on to learn more about the different types of oil spills. 

Heating oil (kerosene and diesel)

Commonly used in residential boilers and furnaces, heating oil is either kerosene or diesel. These fuels are essential for maintaining warmth in homes during colder seasons. Spills can occur due to several reasons:

  • Tank leaks: Corrosion or physical damage can lead to holes in the tank.
  • Overfilling: During fuel delivery, tanks may be filled beyond their capacity.
  • Pipe damage: Supply lines connecting the tank to the heating system can become damaged.
  • Fuel delivery accidents: Vehicles transporting the oil can release it when they get in an accident

The effects of a heating oil spill

A spill can have several adverse effects on both property and the environment. Firstly, heating oil is a toxic substance and produces harmful fumes which are dangerous to inhale. 

If it spills onto soil or a body of water, it can also lead to soil contamination and water pollution which will affect plant and animal life. As heating oil tanks are usually situated in the garden, environmental spills are very common. 

Cleaning up an environmental oil spill can be a costly, long-winded process that must be left to professionals. They will conduct a safe, thorough cleanup that protects the environment. 

Attempting remediation yourself will put your health at risk as you will be in close contact with the oil, and may make the situation worse. For example, digging up contaminated soil can cause the oil to sink deeper or washing it down the drain can contaminate your drainage system.

You can learn more about what to do when heating oil spills at home here

Diesel and petrol

Diesel and petrol are common fuels used in vehicles and machinery. Spills can occur in a wide variety of settings including in residential properties, in garages, and in workplaces. Several factors contribute to diesel and petrol spills:

  • Accidents: Collisions involving vehicles carrying these fuels can result in spillages.
  • Overfilling: Filling tanks beyond their capacity can cause them to overflow.
  • Mechanical failures: Faulty pumps or valves in storage facilities can leak fuel.
  • Vandalism: Intentional damage to fuel storage units may cause leaks.

The effects of a diesel or petrol spill

Diesel and petrol are highly flammable substances. A naked flame could cause the oil or its vapours to ignite and lead to a major fire which will have cause more serious consequences. 

Gasoline and diesel are also dangerous to be exposed to. Gasoline, for example, is harmful when ingested, touched, or inhaled and is linked to a range of health problems including skin irritation, headaches, convulsions, and organ failure. Exposure to diesel, on the other hand, can lead to heart and lung problems. 

Should the oil spill onto soil or near water bodies, there could be a risk of environmental pollution, too. 

If a spill occurs and you have a spill kit as well as the training to use it, you should clean up the oil yourself. Otherwise, contact oil spill cleanup professionals immediately to quickly clean the oil, minimise damage to the environment, and extract any oil that has gotten into the environment. 

Hydraulic oil

Hydraulic oil plays a crucial role in powering machinery and equipment by transferring power through hydraulic fluid pressure. 

The primary causes of hydraulic oil spills include equipment failure, improper maintenance, accidents during handling or transport, and system leaks. These incidents can happen in industrial settings, on construction sites, or even within residential areas where such machinery is used.

The effects of a hydraulic oil spill

  • Environmental damage: When released into the environment, hydraulic oil can contaminate soil and water bodies. This contamination poses risks to wildlife and disrupts ecosystems.
  • Safety hazards: On surfaces like roads or floors, spilled hydraulic oil creates slippery conditions that increase the risk of accidents for both vehicles and pedestrians.
  • Challenging cleanup: Removing spilled hydraulic oil requires specialised techniques to prevent further environmental impact and ensure complete removal from affected areas.

You can learn more about how professionals clean up hydraulic fluid spills in this blog.

Transformer oil

Transformer oil is a highly refined mineral oil that serves as an insulator and coolant in electrical transformers. It helps maintain the transformer's temperature, ensuring it operates efficiently and safely. However, spills of this substance can occur due to equipment failure, accidents during handling or transport, or natural disasters.

The primary causes of transformer oil spills include mechanical failures, such as seal leaks or tank ruptures within the transformer itself. External factors like collisions or extreme weather conditions that cause structural damage can also lead to spills. Additionally, improper maintenance routines might increase the chance of such incidents.

The effects of a transformer oil spill

  • Environmental impact: When spilled in the environment, transformer oil can contaminate soil and water bodies, posing risks to wildlife and plant life.
  • Risk to public health: Direct exposure to these oils may cause skin irritation or more severe health issues upon prolonged contact.
  • Economic costs: Cleaning up a spill requires significant resources for remediation efforts which often involve specialised services for safe disposal and decontamination procedures.

Some types of transformer oil may be contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), too. These are extremely hazardous, carcinogenic compounds. PCBs have been banned in the UK since the 1980s but some transformers may still contain them. 

The cleanup of transformer oil - whether contaminated with PCBs or not - must be left to trained professionals clean. They will carefully and thoroughly clean up all of the oil, while adhering closely to the regulations associated with cleaning and disposing of the substance.

Get in touch

Our oil spill cleaning experts can clean up standard spills on hard surfaces and environmental spills. If it is an emergency, they can be on site within a matter of hours. 

To learn more about our oil spill cleaning services, give our friendly team a call on 0208 066 0360 or send an email to enquiries@icecleaning.co.uk


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Melissa Harrison

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