The Deepwater Horizon Disaster
The BP oil spill otherwise known as the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill is considered the largest marine related spill in the Oil and Gas industry and it occurred in the Mexican Gulf from around the 20th of April back in 2010. Even before this incident, offshore drilling was derided by environmentalists and that has only increased in the years since.
According to the findings of Schwartz, Naoki; Weber, Harry R. (1 May 2010), on April 20, 2010, at about 9:45 pm, a high-pressure of Methane from the well flowed into the drilling riser and went up to the drilling rig causing an explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
There were a total of 126 crew members aboard at the time of the explosion: 79 workers of Transocean, seven employees of BP, and a host of employees from other companies according to the findings of Pendlebury, Richard (16 June 2010).
Eleven workers went missing and couldn’t be found despite a three-day search by the U.S. Coast Guard, and so were presumed to have been killed in the explosion. Based on the findings of Kirkham, Chris (22 April 2010), 94 crew members were rescued by helicopter or lifeboat, and 17 of them were taken for treatment due to injuries they sustained. On the morning of April 22, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon sank.
With regards to the findings of Terese Collins, underwater cameras showed that oil and gas from the BP pipe were leaking onto the ocean floor some 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana and this was a great problem. Shortly after the disaster, workers from Transocean and BP together with several government agencies put in efforts to prevent the oil from spreading to beaches and other coastal lines.
Below are some statistics from the BP oil spill based on the findings of Hoch Maureen, Mackey Maureen, Pittman Craig and Welch William .
– Over 200 million gallons of oil was discharged into the Gulf of Mexico which represented about half the volume of crude oil which the U.S. was importing per day, which in U.S. history, is the biggest oil spill. This lasted for 87 days.
– It also affected 16,000 miles of coastline which includes the coast of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama.
– Over 2100 tons of crude oil was extracted from the coast of Louisiana in 2013.
– The oil spill has polluted approximately 125 miles of the Louisiana coast out of the 400 miles which it spread to.
– 11 lives were claimed in the oil rig explosion and 17 people were injured.
CAUSES OF THE BP OIL SPILL
This disaster resulted from the failure of several safety systems which were set in place to prevent such a disaster.
The bottom of the borehole was not cemented properly and so oil and gas started leaking through into the pipe which led to the surface. The cement formulation seemed not to have been done properly as said by BP.
The pipe which led to the surface was sealed at the bottom in two ways. Cement was also used to seal it, and it had two mechanical valves which were designed to prevent any flow of oil and gas. These valves malfunctioned which allowed oil and gas to pass through the pipe up to the surface.
Misinterpretation of Pressure Tests
Various pressure tests were performed by the crew to ascertain if the well was sealed or not. The test results were misinterpreted and so they believed that the well had no problems.
Leaks Were Not Spotted in Time
Irrespective of the fact that they believed the well was under control, the team at the surface had to check if there was a discharge of oil and gas towards the surface by looking out for abrupt pressure increases in the well. There was actually a pressure increase 50 minutes before the explosion of the rig, but they didn’t interpret it as a leak.
Another Valve Failure Occurred
A mixture of mud and gas started flowing onto the rig floor some 8 minutes to the explosion. A valve in the blowout preventer which lies on the ocean floor just above the top of the well was not properly closed after the attempts of the crew to do so.
No Gas Alarms
There was an onboard gas detection device on the rig which had to sound the alarm and trigger the closing of ventilation fans to stop the gas from reaching the rig’s engines which could cause an explosion. Unfortunately, this device failed.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF THE BP OIL SPILL
Impact on Marine Life
There was a great number of mutated fish found in the Gulf due to the oil spill. The cause of these deformities was as a result of the chemicals and the dispersants which were used to clean up the Gulf. These deformities include fish with sores, fish, and crabs born without eyes, and fish with cuts. Based on the findings of Sahagun, Louis (February 13, 2014), fish were killed due to the toxins from the oil spills which caused cardiac arrests.
Impact on Beaches
Based on the findings of Thomas W. Kelley (June 2012), about 622 to 1300 miles of the U.S. coastline close to the Gulf of Mexico has been affected by the oil from the explosion. It has stimulated the erosion of land thereby leading to the destruction of a majority of the marsh vegetation there. The ecosystem may never be the same again.
Impact due to Cleanup
The fragile environment was damaged due to the oil cleanup. Environmentalists warned against rushing and using methods which were not tested and even unnecessary in the cleanup. Sometimes the oil was burnt up which caused pollution in the area.
BP OIL SPILL LEGAL ISSUES
Several lawsuits were filed due to the damage which the oil spill caused to the environment. This included damage to wildlife, coastlines, and other damages caused to the Gulf region’s ecosystem.
Wrongful death lawsuits were filed against Transocean and BP by several families of the 11 rig workers who died in the explosion. The rig workers who suffered injuries on that day have sued both companies for carelessness.
BP Shareholder Lawsuits
A couple of investors filed lawsuits against BP, blaming the company for deceiving shareholders and making BP share values to rise. There was an investigation being carried out by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to find out if BP insiders were making profits from trading based on insider information weeks or months following the disaster.
Health Risks and Injuries from Cleanup
Several people who were taken to clean and burn off oil in the Gulf of Mexico months after the disaster filed claims against BP for health issues which they claim were due to the cleanup. This included throat irritation, nausea, and headaches.
Having taken a look at all the events of the BP oil spill, one would say this was a very disastrous event because of the damage it caused to the environment and the negative impact on people’s lives and families. This event is the worst yet as it concerns oil disasters and should be an eye-opener to other companies not to make the same errors made by BP.
It is important that we learn the lessons from this incident so it never occurs again. Beyond that, we should challenge ourselves to place what happened in a greater context, to reflect on the complex issue of offshore drilling.
Check out this video from NASA showing a HD timelapse of the spill from space: