• 06.08.10

Infographic of the Day: The Gulf Oil Spill Isn’t the Biggest, but It’ll Be the Costliest presents a new chart, putting the size–and cost–of the spill into perspective.

Infographic of the Day: The Gulf Oil Spill Isn’t the Biggest, but It’ll Be the Costliest

  The myriad infographics we’ve seen about the BP Gulf spill have all focused on the absolute size of the disaster–and while it’s certainly huge, size comparisons don’t do justice to the real problem we’re facing. That’s why Fast Company created this graphic.


The BP Gulf oil spill is the worst ever when you combine its size and location. While it may not be the biggest, as you can see from the graphic, it certainly will be one of the most economically damaging and costly, simply because it occurred in some of America’s most productive waters.

All of which is illustrated in this infographic, which we commissioned from the people at NG Oil & Gas.

Oil spills infographic

[Click image for full size]

Let’s break down the details. Granted, the current worst-case scenarios could be way off. But if they’re remotely accurate (again, not a certainty), then the BP spill is still dwarfed by the Ixtoc spill.

Oil spills infographic

Ixtoc also occurred in the Gulf of Mexico–but in that case, wind
and currents managed
to contain the damage
. And it wasn’t nearly as close to sensitive
coastlines. Which is precisely the problem with the BP oil spill. Because of where it occurred, clean up and damages will likely reach unsurpassed totals:

Oil spills infographic

As to the environmental impacts, we simply don’t know yet. Some have estimated that it will take years to clean up the spill thanks to the use of dispersants that have simply diffused the oil over more area–and we may see after effects of the disaster for generations to come:

Oil spills infographic

Click here for the full-size chart.

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About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.