The Fergana Valley Oil Spill occurred on March 2nd, 1992. The valley is located in Central Asia and stretches across northern Tajikistan, southern Kyrgyzstan, and eastern Uzbekistan. The valley was discovered during the early 1900s near the town of Namangan, where they later established the Mingubak Oilfield which produced as much as 2.2 million tons per year. To this day, the Fergana Valley Oil Spill was the largest inland oil spill to occur throughout the Earth where a total of 285,000 tons of oil was released, also ranking it the 5th largest oil spill ever recorded. The Fergana Valley Oil Spill had detrimental effects on the environment, economy, as well as the people who lived around the Mingubak Oilfield.
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In detail, The Fergana Valley Oil Spill occurred due to a blowout at well #5 on March 2nd, 1992. First reactors when the well #5 first blew open set up walls around the well which kept damage minimal at first. Due to the lack of well-capping and oil removing technology the problem became larger as they tried to siphon oil from the contaminated areas into trucks which was a slow and rigorous process. On April 6th, 1992 well #5 caught fire resulting in a sky of smoke which raised additional environmental and health concerns in the Uzbekistan region. This caused the local government to reach to the U.S. for assistance where they asked for technological assistance and an assessment of the situation pertaining to the local community’s safety. It is estimated that around 35,000 to 150,000 barrels of oil was released from well #5 per day. In total it is estimated 2,000,000 barrels of oil was released. The oil spilling from the well stopped by itself after some time once the source was dry.
When the U.S first entered Uzbekistan, they enacted certain rules in effort to stop the well from spilling. The Hazardous Materials Transportation Act was used which purpose was to “protect against the risks to life, property, and the environment that are inherent in the transportation of hazardous material in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce”. In addition, the U.S. provided technical support, assessed the health and environmental consequences, and helped the Uzbekistan government establish a contingency plan for future incidents. Although the oil spill didn’t have great effects on the environment or the people who live there, it strengthened the relationship between Uzbekistan and the U.S and allowed for a better prepared future.
The combined efforts of the Uzbekistan government and the U.S. eventually led to the end of oil spilling from well #5. The U.S. provided Uzbekistan with technology capable of well-capping and oil removal and also ran many tests throughout the environment in order to deem the contaminated area safe for human interaction. The U.S. determined a small amount of oil reached the Syr Darya river which was 100 meters from the pooled oil and 200 meters from well #5 itself. The team also determined that the large plume of smoke presented no immediate danger to the environment, but caused some difficulty to children, elders, and those with respiratory conditions.
When the Fergana Valley Oil spill occurred, the Uzbekistan government was underprepared and attempted to set up a dam to hold the oil from spilling more. From this, they began to siphon out the oil to trucks where they would move them to an undisclosed area to reuse or remove the oil. This oil spill costed more than the people of the Mingubak Oilfield made and therefore created a problem they couldn’t handle alone. The Uzbekistan government contacted both the U.S. government and private U.S. oil corporations for assistance in return for a reward. The U.S. was also motivated to help the people of Uzbekistan because they were becoming influenced by Communism due to all the disorder and lack of leadership during that time. The total monetary cost of the Fergana Valley Oil spill was estimated to be little to none because the U.S. came back with their technology once the well ceased to spill oil and most work was done by Uzbekistan officials except testing of the environment which was handled by a specialized team for the time period.
The overall impact of the Fergana Valley oil spill was not long lasting and currently has no effects on the environment or society today. At the time of the incident on the other hand, many were affected but most notably were the workers of the Mingubak Oilfield. It is estimated that 535 of the 1500 workers involved suffered an oil related injury due to the lack of protective clothing when well #5 blew open. Although a small amount of oil was released into the Syr Darya river, there were no lasting effects on the people or marine life to this day and in 2017 China and Uzbekistan revisited the Mingubak Oilfield in order to asses its long term potential and see if the area is still rich with oil. At the time of the incident, the workers continued to work the other wells in order to cut back their loses from losing all that oil. Thanks to the quick response of both the U.S. and Uzbekistan there were no long lasting effects of the Fergana Valley Oil Spill.
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In my opinion, the transport of potentially hazardous material using the marine environment is not a viable option because there are too many risks at sea when oil and marine life are involved. The oil would cause much more damage to the marine environment than it would to the inland environment making transportation by sea not a viable option. To conclude, the Fergana Valley Oil Spill did not have a lasting effect on the environment, marine life, society, or the economy and built relations between the U.S. and Uzbekistan.
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- Mikucki, Jacob. “Fergana Valley Oil Spill.” Prezi.com, 30 Jan. 2013, prezi.com/sa7ib_oqnapz/fergana-valley-oil-spill/.
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