NIO begins fingerprinting tar balls to track oil spills

  • Environmental forensic analysts are chasing tar balls in sea coasts to trace the source of marine oil spills.
  • The issue of oil spills came to focus last month following the leakage of huge quantities of crude oil into the sea off Ennore coast near Chennai.
  • Samples collected from the Ennore spill will be fingerprinted at the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, shortly.

How will this help?

  • Tracking the source of oil pollution through fingerprinting is significant as it could identify the polluters and thus fix responsibility.
  • It will help in evaluating the spills and devising methods for averting them.

The Process

  • Crude oil explored from each well has specific characteristics.
  • A comparison of the characteristics of oil spills or tar balls with the crude oil will reveal the location from which the oil originated.
  • After identifying the characteristics of the oil spill or tar balls, it would be easy to track them back to the source, said a communication from NIO.


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