The Deepwater Horizon oil spill -- cause, effects, and restoration efforts
The 2010 Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the largest accidental marine pollution in the history of petroleum industry and is the result of an uncontrolled release of oil from an oil well that experienced malfunction in the pressure control system. Eleven crew members on the Macondo well died as a result of the explosion while others were injured, fishermen experienced extreme hardships in their enterprise, and marine life in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida was severely damaged. The blowout took place on April 20, 2010, and rapidly came into public attention as people watched more and more people and activities affected by the disaster. The initial impact of the explosion was nothing in comparison to what followed: the oil spill set off a series of events that had physical, psychological, and economic consequences on Floridians and on society as a whole.
Even though it is difficult to determine the exact factors that made it possible for eleven people to lose their lives and for many others to suffer extensively as a result of the oil spill, it is only safe to assume that the blowout was caused by a blind interest in profits and by a failure to act in agreement with legislations. BP representatives, Transocean (the company in charge of operating the rig), and the Obama administration all agreed that it was impossible for someone to predict the disaster. However, when considering facts and testimonies issued by BP employees and experts that have conducted research on the matter, it appears that a catastrophe was, in fact, imminent.
Deepwater Horizon was an exploratory rig, meaning that its purpose was to explore waters for oil in order for extractive oil rigs to later extract oil from it was found. However, in the weeks before the explosion, the rig came across numerous natural gas deposits that made it impossible for workers to perform any kind of activities that could set off a detonation. Work was halted on a regular basis as the rig came across more and more gas deposits and workers could no longer smoke, cook, weld, or use any kind of device that needed fire in order to work.
The managers at BP apparently anticipated the explosion, but claimed that it did not represent an actual threat. On the day that the explosion took place, workers apparently debated whether or not they should replace dense mud from the well in order to replace it with sea water that was much lighter in comparison. The standard procedure in such cases is to first replace mud with a cement plug that has the purpose of preventing natural gas from rising to the surface and exploding. Mud was thus the only thing separating workers from natural gas deposits waiting to climb to the surface of the rig. The drilling company eventually decided that it was best for workers to replace mud with water, as replacing it with cement would bring on additional costs that it did not want to pay.
Workers on the rig were apparently ready to install the cement plug when they were instructed to abandon this performance in order to put water into the well. Transocean managers considered that it was irresponsible for them to agree to invest 500k dollars into Deepwater Horizon everyday as long as working was delayed by the cement plug. In addition to being against the cement plug, Transocean and BP are also accountable for no taking extra measures to assist workers in case that an explosion took place.
The companies involved in administering the oil rig should have installed an efficient blowout preventer meant to cut pipes whenever this was needed. On April 20 gas started to push water (it was to light to stop gas from elevating) up the well and it was evening when workers witnessed a geyser of water combined with mud and gas climbing an approximate 240 feet in the air. Upon seeing mud, workers realized that the situation was critical and that an explosion was approaching. Liquid gas became gaseous, started of a series of explosions, and led to a massive storm of fire covering most of the rig. The blowout preventer proved to be unsuccessful in stopping oil from climbing up and workers came to do anything in their power in order to avoid falling victim to the conflagration (Eley). All things considered, cost cuts are one of the principal factors that led to the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon.
Crude oil started to emerge from the well as the oil platform started to sink and it is believed that an approximate five million barrels were released from the source, with about 4.2 millions entering the Gulf of Mexico. Oil spread as a result of weather conditions and it landed in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida at the beginning of June. Wildlife in these states was severely affected, with Louisiana suffering the most as a result of having contact with the oil slick. Whereas environmental harm was initially believed to affect only surface wildlife, it gradually became obvious that the spill would affect ecology far below the surface of the water. The entire Gulf Coast region came to be threatened by the oil spill as some ecosystems were actually destroyed (Griggs).
Whereas it was difficult for experts to evaluate the exact magnitude of the disaster in the first days following the explosion, people are currently starting to feel the catastrophic effects of the tragedy. "Marine species are covered with tar, and the sheen of oil floating on the surface of the water is a sobering and saddening sight. Life itself has been stained by oil. Pelicans are dying; and fish, dolphins, and turtles lie in the depths of the oily sea" ("The Black Gulf: As"). The spill did not just affect wildlife, as it also had a terrible effect on people living on the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico. The oil spill is creating dead zones that are believed to stay this way for many years to come. Wetlands are being exposed to the toxic effect of the spill with more and more wildlife becoming endangered every day. The impact that the oil spill will have on wildlife and on the ecology in the Gulf of Mexico as a whole is devastating ("The Black Gulf: As"). Scientists have attributed the disappearance of large amounts of plankton and copepods to the fact that the oil spill had removed oxygen from certain areas and have made it impossible for them to live there. Even though many beaches were cleaned, coastal lands are believed to contain large amounts of oil remains and tar balls buried under sand (Griggs).
The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill stands as the worst environmental accidents that the U.S. has ever experienced. The actual effects of the disaster are yet to be seen and experts cannot even approximate the consequences that they think are going to come out of the enterprise. The depth of the spill, the amount of oil spilled, and the chemicals used to break down oil in order to reach the surface all contribute to destroying the environment. "In the six weeks since the explosion that killed 11 workers and started the leak, wildlife officials say at least 491 birds, 227 turtles and 27 mammals, including dolphins, have been found dead along the U.S. Gulf coast" (Adam). Given that the oil spill claimed this many live in just six weeks, it is likely that the numbers of deaths associated with it until this moment is enormous. One of the main reasons for which scientists are reserved about expressing their perspective regarding the situation is that they have never seen something like this before. Thus, they are virtually learning from this "experiment."
The BP oil spill has severely affected the way of life of locals in the Gulf of Mexico as approximately a quarter of the area is closed to fishing and many other areas are no longer productive when considering their ability to provide people with resources. Claims for economic damage are currently filed against BP as people are no longer able to fish, have gone bankrupt as a result of tourists being hesitant about visiting the area, and as the oil spill has affected many other businesses that depended on the welfare of the ecology in the Gulf of Mexico. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 "requires that the measure of damages be based on: "(A) the cost of restoring, rehabilitating, replacing, or acquiring the equivalent of, the damaged natural resources; (B) the diminution in value of those natural resources pending restoration; plus (C) the reasonable cost of assessing those damages" (Griggs). Given that the oil spill created a lot of controversy in the first days consequent to the explosion, President Obama influenced BP to set up a $20 billion fund meant to assist individuals who were financially affected by the…