On April 20, 2010 the BP owned Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling platform located off the Louisiana cost suffered the effects of an oil well blowout underwater which in turn caused an explosion on the platform. This singular event has caused a massive ongoing oil spill from a sea floor oil gusher. The casualties of this explosion include 11 missing and presumed dead platform workers, and 17 injured. It also left an uncapped, un-contained oil gusher pumping out thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf.
The Deepwater Horizon platform burned for more than a day after the initial explosion before sinking on April 22, 2010. Based upon BP’s interviews with rig workers as part of the investigation, a bubble of methane gas escaped from the well and burst through several seals and barriers, expanding as it rose through the drill column before exploding at the surface; this is commonly known in the drilling world as a blowout.
It has been reported that the well was pumping out around 5,000 barrels of oil per day after the explosion. Attempts to cap the well on April 22 using remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROV) were unsuccessful. At that time the Vice President of BP David Rainey indicated that this has the potential of being a major spill.
Because of strong southerly winds and an incoming cold front the spread of the oil increased to cover 580 square miles by April 25.
As of May 20, all attempts to cap and contain the oil spill have failed to completely contain the spread. BP is racing against time to attempt to contain this oil, either by pumping the oil elsewhere or stopping the well completely. Besides using the ROV’s, there have been several attempts made:
A containment box was created and taken to the site only to fail due to ice crystals forming. This box the size of a four story home was to both contain the oil pumping out into the water and siphon it away.
Chemical dispersants have been sprayed on the surface and released underwater to break up the oil. This has had some effect, but not the hoped effect of dispersing the oil so much that it would be carried throughout the ocean and not cause
A riser insertion tube tool (RITT) is collecting and carrying around 2000 barrels of oil per day to a drill-ship where the oil is stored and gases are flared off.
A successful controlled burn operation, containment and absorbent booms have all been used to keep the spill from impacting the shore in Louisiana.
BP has plans to develop a “top kill operation” to inject heavy drilling fluids into the well to stop the flow of oil and gas followed by cement sealing of the well. There are two relief wells in progress which are estimated to take 3 months to complete.
Despite the fairly simple looking photos of the surface that are shown on news reports, underneath the water in the Gulf of Mexico scientists have discovered huge oil plumes . These plumes deplete the oxygen level in the gulf, potentially killing much of the sea life in the area.
Oil clumps have washed up on Louisiana beaches, as residents wait for the oil slick to reach land. The oil leak is affecting the fishing and tourism industry in the Gulf, killing marine life and endangering all levels of the environment of the area.
The oil is edging toward the “loop current” which is a stream of faster moving water that circulates the Gulf, goes around Florida and moves up the Atlantic coast. The event of the oil slick reaching this current will cause the effect of the oil spill to be felt on a much wider scale.
Southeastern Louisiana has reedy freshwater wetlands which are now covered with a chocolate colored blanket of oil that has the density of latex paint. Billy Nungesser Parish President of Jindal and Plaquemines says “This has laid down a blanket in the marsh that will destroy every living thing there. “
The environmental impact of the oil spill, will affect the gulf and parts of North America for years to come. At this time many of the bird species in the area have migrated to the North for the spring and summer seasons and aren’t affected by the oil spill, but there are brown pelicans and terns that breed on the coast that will suffer from the oil.
Spring is spawning season for blue fin and yellowtail tuna, mackerels and other species of fish as well as the nesting season for sea turtles. All of the sea turtles in the Gulf are listed as threatened or endangered; their numbers are likely to decrease greatly.
The U.S. government is going to independently verify how much oil has leaked into the gulf. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said “It’s a grave and very serious situation and we’re taking nothing for granted.
He told CNN “We’re not depending in what BP is telling us.”
BP Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward has issued this statement:
“We absolutely understand and share President Obama’s sense of urgency over the length of time this complex task is taking. We want to thank the President and his administration for their ongoing engagement n this effort” He further claims “BP – working closely with scientists and engineers from across the whole oil industry, from government agencies and departments, and with local officials along the Gulf
Coast- is focused on doing everything in our power to stop the flow of oil, remove it from the surface and protect the shoreline. We are working with state and community leaders to mitigate the impact on the lives and livelihoods of those who have been affected.”
With more than 20,000 people working to prevent the oil spill from reaching land, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has widened its no-fishing zone to now include 19 percent of the gulf waters or little more than 45 thousand square miles. At this time David Rainey could correct his statement about the potential of this oil spill to be a major spill, to state that this is a major and devastating oil spill that will affect the environment, economy and lifestyles of thousands of people.
On Going BP Oil Spill Coverage: