Professor Quazi Seraj
11 October 2012
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a devastating event that lasted several months. It occurred
on April 20 through July 15, 2010 offshore Louisiana, Gulf of Mexico, USA. Deepwater Horizon
is owned and operated by British Petroleum (BP). The spill was caused by an oil gusher on the
ocean floor. The Deepwater Horizon rig started drilling a well at a water depth of 5,000ft in MC
block 252 when it caught fire in April 2010. Deepwater Horizon is a fifth-generation deepwater
rig owned by Transocean and leased by BP. It was characterized as the largest accidental marine
oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. To help us understand the problem lets first talk
about what it is and how it happens.
An oil spill is a release of liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine
areas caused when people make careless mistakes or by a natural disaster. As a secondary effect
this can cause oil tanks, offshore platforms or drilling rigs to leak into the ocean. Large and
catastrophic spills are rare events but have the potential to cause the most serious ecological risk
and result in long-term environmental disturbances and economic impact on coastal activities.
Causes of oil spills
Oil tanks, offshore platforms and drilling rigs can spill due to a number of reasons.
Machinery and equipment can fail to function properly. Tankers and barges can crash in into
unexpected land and cause a hole or a crack that allows oil to spill out. When oil is being moved
from one vessel to another it can leak too. Terrorists when at war purposely dump oil into clean
water into opposing countries with the intention of publicity and costly damage. People dump
crude oil into the waters illegally to not spend money on decomposing waste. Also natural
disasters such as hurricanes can cause oil spills by causing oil tankers to flip over or
damage off shore drilling facilities. Spills also occur on land. “Nearly 85 percent of the 29
million gallons of petroleum that enter North American ocean waters each year as a result of
human activities comes from land based run off polluter divers, airplanes and small boats and jet
ski’s, while less then 8 percent comes from tankers or pipeline spills.” (The Ocean Studies board
and Marine Board of the National Academy of Sciences, Oil in the Sea 2003, News from the
National Academies, articles: May 23, 2002). The difficulty of the cleanup depends on the
amount that is spilled, the weather, location and the type of oil. Gasoline tends to evaporate in
the air making it generally easier to cleanup. When oil is spilled into the ocean the waves cause it
to disperse. The combination of the chemicals can at times sink to the bottom of the ocean and
sinks onto rocks and sand, causing problems to the ocean floor and its surrounding species. It can
also get brushed up on shore and cause damage to land animals and flora.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard are some of the
organizations that help prevent, organize and control clean ups when necessary. They have
policies and procedures entailed to train professionals making companies accountable for their
mistakes. These trainings help prepare them to handle and prevent these incidents.
Largest Oil spills
Major oil spills include Kuwait that included an oil fire 01/1991 through 11/1991. 136,000-
205,000 thousand tons of oil was lost. Lakeview Gusher in California 3/1910 through 09/1911
lost 1,200 thousand tons of...