Geo-Marine Letters

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 140-146

First online:

Natural seepage of crude oil into the marine environment

  • K. A. KvenvoldenAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey Email author 
  • , C. K. CooperAffiliated withChevron Petroleum Technology Company

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Recent global estimates of crude-oil seepage rates suggest that about 47% of crude oil currently entering the marine environment is from natural seeps, whereas 53% results from leaks and spills during the extraction, transportation, refining, storage, and utilization of petroleum. The amount of natural crude-oil seepage is currently estimated to be 600,000 metric tons per year, with a range of uncertainty of 200,000 to 2,000,000 metric tons per year. Thus, natural oil seeps may be the single most important source of oil that enters the ocean, exceeding each of the various sources of crude oil that enters the ocean through its exploitation by humankind.