BP Oil Spill in the Gulf

BP (or British Petroleum) oil spill is widely known across the world by different names. This disaster is also called Macondo blowout, the BP oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico oil spill or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The disaster took place on 20th April, 2010 and it continuously flowed uncontrolled for around 90 days. This incident, according to Nash (2011), is referred to as the “largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry” (p.260). Nash (2011) also indicated that “The explosion killed 11 men working on the platform and injured 17 others” (p.260). The guilty party in this case is the noted energy company British Petroleum, which, according to Bamberg (2008), “It is the fourth largest company in the whole World. In the energy sector BP is the third largest company of the World” (p.121).

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The incident took place in the Gulf of Mexico. McCoy and Salerno (2010) indicated about the disaster that "Located approximately 40 miles off the coast of Venice, Louisiana, but threatening the entire Gulf and Atlantic coastline" (p.14). At about 9.45 pm on 20th April methane gas shot up from the well and out of the drilling columns because of high pressure. It spread to the platform causing an explosion. On 22nd April 2010 the rig sank and the slick of oil started to spread out on the former site of the rig. In size the spill is greater in volume to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (1989) – the largest ever till now in waters under the control of America. By June 4th the spill had reached to within 125 miles or 201 km of the coast of Louisiana State, had washed off the barrier sands of Mississippi and Alabama and was seen on the barrier island of Florida at PensacolaBeach. Fertel (2011) noted that "The Deepwater Horizon was a 9-year-old semi-submersible mobile offshore drilling unit, a massive floating, dynamically positioned drilling rig that could operate in waters up to 8,000 feet (2,400 m) deep and drill down to 30,000 feet (9,100 m)" (p.25). It is assumed the company (BP) grossly neglected the safety measures and policies put down by the government. As a result a great explosion in the oil platform took place when, according to Nash (2011), "methane gas from the well, under high pressure, shot all the way up and out of the drill column, expanded onto the platform, and then ignited and exploded. Fire then engulfed the platform" (pp. 261-262).


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According to Campagna (2011) Officials are continuing with their round the clock efforts to clean the mess from the deadly oil spill of 20th April 2010 in the MexicanGulf. The accident was the worst in recorded history. It has been calculated that each day 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil was spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. Seepage of oil is not something new considering ocean structure. This will help to place the figures in the proper perspective. It has been calculated that in the Mexican Gulf alone about 5,000 barrels per day leaks through the vents of the earth into the waters of the seas. It is equivalent to 220,000 gallons per day or 80 million gallons in a year. Thus oil seepage is a natural phenomenon with which the oceans of our planet are dealing with multiple millions of gallons each day. Nevertheless and extra spill of 35,000 to 60,000 barrels off Louisiana coast is a matter of concern. The oil slick spread across 2,500 to 4,000 square miles or 6,500 square km. Depending on the weather conditions it fluctuated from one day to another (pp.393-397).


According to McCoy and Salerno (2010) "The Deepwater Horizon oil is an 'imminently degradable' oil ...In the Gulf oil spill, many of the small molecules dissolve within the water" (p.26). However, the affect on marine life and human health is huge. It has also directly affected “wildlife habitats and to the Gulf's fishing and tourism industries” (Campagna, 393). According to estimates of U.S. Coast Guard, in the cleanup operations involved were 170 vessels, about 7,500 personnel and an extra lot of 2,000 helping volunteers. By  June, legal suits numbering 220 had been filed against BP. Other lawsuits were filed against Halliburton Energy Services, Cameron International Corporation and Transocean. There is the possibility that all these lawsuits would amalgamate into one litigation. On 16th June after their conference with President Obama, the executives of BP agreed to set up a $20 billion fund as response to spill. On 24th May the Federal Government declared that a fisheries disaster had struck three states – Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Initial calculations of losses to the fishing industry were to the tune of $2.5 billion. On 23rd June the fishing ban on 8,000 square miles or 21,000 sq. km was lifted. It left 78,597 square miles or 203,570 sq km zone where fishing was disallowed. The area was equivalent to a third of the Mexican Gulf. On 5th July it was reported by BP that it has spent $3.12 billion in response to the accident. It included the funds for spill response, grants to the Gulf States, payment of claims, federal expenses, containment and well drilling for relief. However, it should be noted that the full extent of this disaster is still undermined. McCoy and Salerno (2010) noted that "However, more information is needed to best protect the health of affected populations in the context of both the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and of future" (p.2).


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The 1990 US Oil Pollution Act has limited the liability of BP for non-clean up expenses to the tune of $75 million unless it is proved that there was gross negligence. BP has announced it would bear the expenses for all the cleanup and subsequent remedies despite this Act. Nevertheless, there is an overall need of full scale investigation on the incident and policies should be formulated in order to avoid such terrible incidents in future. According to McCoy and Salerno (2010) "Application of Surveillance Methods to the Oil Spill Disaster" (p.109) is a prime necessity and "To monitor and mitigate the adverse health effects of exposure to the Deepwater Horizon" (p.109) is needed.

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