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The Size of Past Oil Spills

The 2010 BP spill was bad, but how does the volume of oil lost compare to other similar spills?

One of the most recognizable oil spills in US history, the Exxon Valdez, leaked "only" about 10.8 million gallons, or about 5.9% of the amount spilled in the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The Exxon Valdez spill is remembered as such a large disaster because it occured in a remote area of Alaska, where the inaccessibility and pristine surroundings seriously compounded the event's environmental impact.

The largest spill in modern times was during the Gulf War in Kuwait, where an estimated 239.4 million gallons of oil were intentionally leaked into the Persian Gulf and surrounding area by Iraqi forces.

Compared to the Kuwait spill, the volume of oil in the BP incident was about 76.4% as large, while the Gulf of Mexico's worst spill prior to 2010 - the Ixotoc 1 - leaked about 140.3 million gallons from 1979 into 1980. The Ixotoc 1 was similarly about 76% the size of the BP spill.

Image: Paul Alvord for CNBC.com