Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

9 September 2016

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was one of the most infamous industrial environmental disasters ever. On April 20, 2010, a marine oil-drilling dig called the Deepwater Horizon exploded, releasing hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This explosion resulted in the loss of human life, massive environmental damage, and widespread damage to the livelihood of people living along the Gulf Coast.

The organization with the largest share in the oil drill, BP (Beyond Petroleum), is still facing consequences of this spill and lost millions of dollars as well as national support. The Obama administration also received criticism for not responding to this crisis quickly enough. This monstrous oil spill created environmental, health, social, and economic problems that were unprecedented, and the rippling effects of the spill are still being felt today.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Essay Example

To fully understand the story behind the incident that incited massive worldwide ramifications, one must get a better understanding of the company in charge of the oil rig and what their fault was. BP, which stands for Beyond Petroleum, is, as they state, “one of the world’s leading international oil and gas companies, providing its customers with fuel for transportation, energy for heat and light, lubricants to keep engines moving, and the petrochemicals products used to make everyday items. ” (BP, 2013).

This now world-leading petroleum company was created in 1908 in England, and has since expanded to employ over 83,000 people in 30 different countries, and has broken records with its quarterly net income of $16. 86 billion in the first quarter of 2013. On their website, BP states that they have “five values that express [their] shared understanding of what [they] believe, how [they] aim to behave, and what [they] aspire to be as an organization. ” These values are, in order: 1. Safety: “We care about the safe management of the environment. ” 2. Respect: “We respect the world in which we operate. 3. Excellence: “[We] are committed to excellence through the systematic and disciplined management of our operations. ” 4. Courage: “We explore new ways of thinking and are unafraid to ask for help. ” 5. One Team: “We put the team ahead of our personal success and commit to building its capability. ” To understand how at fault BP is for this spill, we must look into what exactly the explosion was and the main events contributing to the spill, as well as how BP may have gone against their own regulations in their protection and cleaning schemes.

The Deepwater Horizon was a 9-year-old drilling rig in the Mississippi Canyon Block 252 of the Gulf of Mexico. It was a semi-submersible, mobile, foating, dynamically positioned rig that could operate into waters up to 10,000 feet deep. The machine, shown below, was built by Hyundai and owned by Transocean, and the rig was chartered to BP from March 2008 to September 2013. The oil well it was drilling in was 35,050 feet deep, in about 5,100 feet of water. The well is located 41 miles off of the coast of Louisiana.

BP, the principal owner of this well (known as the Macondo Prospect), owned a 65% share, while Anadarko Petroleum Corporation owned 25% and MOEX Offshore 2007 owned 10%. A waterline view of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig prior to explosion. The majority of the rig’s mass is below water. On April 20, 2010 at about 9:45 pm, high-pressure methane gas from the well expanded into the drilling riser and rose to the drilling rig, where it ignited and created a huge explosion that engulfed the platform. This explosion killed 11 out of the 126 people on board, and injured 17 others.

The oil rig burned for 36 hours until it sunk, and hydrocarbons from the explosion continued to leak into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. A statement from BP read “The accident involved a well integrity failure, followed by a loss of hydrostatic control of the well. This was followed by a failure to control the flow of the well with the blowout preventer (BOP) equipment, which allowed the release and subsequent ignition of hydrocarbons. Ultimately, the BOP emergency functions failed to seal the well after the initial explosions. ” (BP, 2010).

Immediately following this explosion, a series of investigations took place by a list of teams of investigators. The two most prevalent investigations were made by a team of investigators sent by BP and the White House Oil Spill Commission. The investigations brought up a plethora of reasons for the spill and focused on a number of different failures that led to the explosion. Both investigations cited that two pieces of machinery which were built to isolate hydrocarbons from entering the well—the annulus cement barrier and the shoe track barriers—failed to do so.

This resulted in hydrocarbons entering the well and the control of the well being lost. The investigations also cited that although well integrity had not been established, the BP team leader accepted a negative-pressure test, the results of which were taken from a process that is not the BP preferred method. The White House investigation differed from the BP investigation, however, because the White House panel was able to place blame where they felt was necessary: on BP and its contractors.

The report issued by the White House Oil Spill Commission reads “Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blowout clearly saved those companies significant time (and money). ” (Oil Spill Commission, 2011). The report faults the communication between BP and its contractors, as its contractors were short of effective training, and the key engineering capabilities of the rig personnel. Who was truly responsible for this incident?

BP took the blame, but was it really entirely their fault? Here’s a list of the companies involved in the process and their respective responsibilities for the accident. BP: Beyond Petroleum was the general contractor for this oil rig, and therefore naturally the bearer of the heavyweight responsibility. The responsibility of the total operation of the Deepwater Horizon was run by BP and they were therefore responsible to oversee all activity that would affect the safety and effectiveness of the drilling process.

Transocean: Transocean is the world’s largest offshore drilling company, and was the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Transocean leased the rig to BP for the span of March 2008 to September 2013, and they were given the responsibility of monitoring safe working practices and the protection of the personnel on board. Halliburton: Halliburton is a company that offers a broad array of oilfield services and products to oil and gas customers worldwide. Halliburton was a contractor as well as the cementer for the project.

Halliburton’s job was to establish the cement barrier for this Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Halliburton came under fire after an investigation reported that the initial fault of the accident occurred in the annulus cement barrier. Cameron International Corporation is a Fortune 500 company and a global provider of pressure control, processing, flow control and compression systems, as well as project management and aftermarket services for the oil and gas and process industries. Cameron was the builder of the rig’s BOP (blowout prevention device).

This device failed to seal the well, which caused continuous spillage of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. Although BP did take responsibility verbally and politically for the oil spill, the company proceeded to file $40 billion worth of lawsuits against these three companies. But exactly how at fault was BP for this? Shouldn’t they have suspected something like this may happen? Was this just a freak accident, or was this a chain reaction of mismanaged events? Interestingly enough, it was the latter. BP led a series of mismanaged and misinterpreted operations prior to the explosion.

Apparently, a lead was spotted on a crucial piece of equipment in the oil rig’s blowout preventer just weeks before the explosion, and both BP and Transocean were notified about it. In an interview for 60 minutes, one of the employees on the rig named Mike Williams stated that a reason that much of the normal drilling process was not adhered to was because there was a large amount of pressure to speed the project up to maximize profits. “Pieces of a rubber annular were round in the drilling fluid and brought to the attention of management, yet they deemed this unimportant. ” (Williams, 2010).

Also, the White House Oil Spill Commission reported that regulators of the rig didn’t have sufficient knowledge to recognize poor management and decision making by the companies in charge of the rig. While these examples of mismanagement and carelessness should have been caught by a more educated eye, they went unnoticed. The results of this oil spill were widespread and disastrous on many fronts. The spill was damaging from fronts concerning financial issues to business problems, to human health risks, and (most prevalently) the environment. As of March 2013, BP has already paid $14 billion in clean-up osts for the damage as well as $10 billion in compensation for companies and surrounding habitats.

The spill was absolutely massive; here’s a list of some of the stats from the spill. * 4. 9 million barrels of oil (205. 8 million gallons) spilled from the Deepwater Horizon well into the Gulf of Mexico. * 62,000 barrels of oil leaked per day when the well first broke. * Roughly $400 million worth of oil was spilled. * You could drive a Toyota Prius around the Earth at the Equator 184,181 times with the oil that was lost by the spill. * 13,208 homes could have been heated for one year using the lost oil. (Popular Mechanics, 2010) The National Wildlife Foundation recently issued a report suggesting the environmental effects of the oil spill are far from over. The federation’s report gave grades to environmental concerns that the federation has tracked during the past three years. These concerns included: * Poor coastal wetland condition: 1,100 miles of shoreline were oiled, including coastal wetlands that were already rapidly eroding.

The federation recommends fining BP and using the money to restore barrier islands and paying for sediment diversions. Poor conditions for sea turtles: Over 1,700 sea turtles (predominantly the Kemps Ridley turtles, the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world) were stranded in just two years after the spill, which is over three times the biannual rate of stranding. Approximately $1 billion of BP fine money has already gone to turtle-driven causes. * The report gave “fair” ratings to the conditions of the bottlenose dolphin and the deep sea coral: Although an estimated 650 dolphins and several deep-sea coral colonies were killed because of the accident, the money BP has given for recovery have significantly improved conditions. The report gave “good” ratings to the conditions of shrimp and brown pelicans.

According to the report, the populations of these two marine-centered animals shifted very slightly due to the oil spill, although the report did point out that 826 brown pelicans were collected from the spill area, 577 of which were either dead or later died. A diagram of the geographical extent of the spill. 1,100 miles of Gulf Coastline was affected by this spill, most predominantly in Louisiana. The oil rig was located just 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

In addition to the extreme amounts of direct consequences this oil spill had on surrounding areas, it also had many indirect consequences that BP was not forced to pay for. Fishing regions in the gulf coast area were destroyed, and many commercial fishermen in the area were thus forced to look elsewhere for jobs. Mental health and tourism in the gulf coast area was hit especially hard; after Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon spill pushed many in the area over the edge into a state of anxiety and depression.

There is a constant feeling of pain, grief, and fear of the future shared by the residents of cities and towns bordering the Gulf Coast, as well as a declined interest to visit there because of oil-ridden beaches and waterfronts. This BP disaster has brought valuable lessons to the workfront involving large companies and the environment in which they work. First and foremost, big businesses cannot view their projects and operations as separate from the communities they serve. The BP oil disaster brought to light how economic advantages in speeding up an operation may lead to complex and unthinkable disasters.

Of course, accidents happen – and they always will. But accidents like this, when at the root of it is greedy American speed-consumerism, must be taken as a lesson rather than just as something a company needs to “clean up. ” When looking at this spill, the American people and the American big businesses, as well as people and businesses around the world, should take a step back and think about how their accelerated greed and profit management could end up disastrously, both for the environment and for the economy.

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