What Happens to the Oil BP Recovers?

Oil is collected in skimming boom attached to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Cypress. Photo: Flickr/Deepwater Horizon Response

It has been a month and a half in the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which has released an estimated 30 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. But one topic that hasn’t been addressed is what will happen to all the oil that continues to be recovered.

According to British Petroleum’s (BP) latest numbers, already 368,000 barrels of oil-based liquid have been collected during the first week of June, mostly from skimming the Gulf surface. The company has not yet said what will happen to this recovered material.

While BP is financially responsible for handling all waste collected during the spill, it is partnering with each impacted state and third-party haulers to determine an appropriate disposal plan in that specific state.

So while there are plenty of things you can do to help the relief effort, collecting and attempting to recycle the oil should not be one of them.

This is because the oil that spilled is crude oil, and oil recycling locations in the U.S. are only set up to collect refined oil. BP’s crude oil is a different product than the Castrol motor oil you put in your car.

Another reason is that when oil is collected for recycling, the U.S. EPA requires that it be tested to see if it is hazardous. If it fails the test, it must be disposed of as hazardous waste. It is uncertain whether oil mixed with salt-water would pass these tests.

For oil that is washed ashore, it will often appear in the form of tar balls. These balls are a mixture of oil and sand and are able to be used to produce road surface material such as asphalt. BP has also not commented on what will be done with the tar balls that are already showing up on Gulf beaches.

Related articles
BP Reaches Out to Nonprofit for Cleanup Help
Tar Balls Found on California Beaches Not Linked to Oil Spill
What To Do in an Eco Emergency

Recent Posts
Trey Granger
Latest posts by Trey Granger (see all)


  1. For a lot of money the oil is taken out of the earth and for more money as special reintroduced into the ground.
    If that’s not crazy? And why? We all need oil to fill up our cars or we need a plastic toy.

  2. Hello Trey.

    Great article! I really enjoyed reading and learning about how the cleanup process needs to be handled by “BP” to be effective. I wasn’t aware that the oil and sand balls could be utilized into asphalt. That was an interesting piece of information.

    I’m concerned for how this oil spill is affecting the environment and the wildlife, necessary water plants, etc. that will also be killed/ruined because of this type of water pollution.

  3. Why cant those Tarballs be used in making roads and highways. Anyways OBAMA is spending billions to make roads. Atleast the raw material for roads will be free.

  4. BP is stalling for time, dispersing assets instead of oil.
    The company will claim bankruptcy by the time it should really be reimbursing
    people and states. The net profits made are unimaginable.
    But remember it was Dick Cheney who removed regulations on this corporate greed.

  5. Why hasn’t the EPA tested to find out if hazardous during all this time – should have been the FIRST thing done. Is it safe for people to be handling it if it is hazardous?

    If NOT hazardous, the local community could be collecting some themselves to sell (to asphalt makers).

    And how complicated is it for the US oil recycling centers to modify or adapt, or do whatever is necessary to be able recycle crude oil? Again, the local community could be selling this to them

    How can I follow up on this?

  6. Isn’t the truth of the matter that BP is “flaring” all or almost all of the oil that it is collecting — that is lighting it up and burning it? You would think if the Canadian tar sands project is viable, then it would be viable to collect and process a lot of this crude. Unfortunately/fortunately, asphalt is already relatively cheap, as about 90% of any existing asphalt road can be recycled, so I doubt anyone is going to put forth much effort or money to reclaim tar balls for asphalt.

    I just wonder why BP tried to cap this well in the first place — it seems to me to be a real gusher. I don’t know why it should be considered any kind of success on BP’s part that they are able to put a cap on the well that only collects a small percentage of the leaking oil. What is so difficult about putting a flush connection to the leak? It shouldn’t require a level of engineering any greater than what it took to create the original well. I believe it is more a lack of will on BP’s part. The more they collect, the more they must dispose of. They are content to under-report the amount leaking and let the vast majority of the crude become diluted in the ocean, regardless of the ecological impact of that. It is just more of their cost containment management hard at work.

  7. isn’t it interesting that cheney ended up in the hospital in the middle of the spill disaster and we learned he truly doesn’t have a working heart – or soul….how many “christians” are praying for him? Halliburton will surely miss him if he loses his latest health battle – which i hope he doesn’t….i want him to live – as a human being – to see what he has done and maybe find some repentance in his heart …..we all need that – everytime we go to the gas station or buy a plstic bucket and shovel for our children to play with on the “beach”…and the northeast continues to whine because it’s so hot outside – seriously –

Leave a Comment