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Oil and the Supertanker

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From the beginning of oil exploration and discovery, the need to transport oil to consumers existed. The first successful oil tanker to be built and successfully carry crude was the Zoroaster, which in 1878 shuttled petroleum across the Caspian Sea for what was then the Russian Empire. The idea for this tanker was spawned in the mind of Ludwig Nobel, brother of Alfred Nobel, noted Swedish chemist for whom the esteemed Nobel Prize was named. The free surface effect of liquids in ships had proven the end of all previous ships. The intense movement of waves in the sea would make the liquid shift from one side to the other within the ships, offsetting the ballast and forcing ships to tip and often sink. Nobel solved these problems, and the impressive tanker was built. The Nobel brothers had four years prior developed quite an interest in oil exploration and distribution, forming the Nobel Brothers Oil Extracting Partnership. The brothers built upon the success of this first ship by designing and building a whole fleet of ships to transport the large amounts of oil they were extracting in the Caspian Basin of the Russian Empire.

The next century saw more advancement in shipbuilding for oil transport. These ships became larger and larger over the next few decades, building upon the Nobel brothers’ initial advances. The largest ships were referred to informally as supertankers. These ships carry over 250,000 tons of weight, capable of transporting over two million barrels of oil. The largest supertanker ever built was the Jahre Viking, weighing 564,763 tons. Initially, most tankers were single-hulled. In single-hulled tankers, the hull also acts as the wall of the oil tanks, making any collision a threat of leakage or spilling.

Most new tankers are double hulled, possessing a space between the walls of the oil storage tanks and the outer wall of the ships, making outer hull damage not such a threat for inner oil leakage. Proponents of double hull ships use the property which makes oil and water repel each other, hydrostatic balance, as part of their argument, insisting that this pressure exists at such a high level within double hulled tankers, and allows them a better chance at preventing oil spillage should a collision occur. Research has shown that through the development of these double hulled ships, oil has reached its destination in a much safer manner, with collisions resulting in a third less spills compared to single hulled ships. Continued development of tankers is necessary to insure the safe transport of this valuable resource across waters to consumers.


Source by Bob K. Jent

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