BP Oil Spill

January 6, 2011
By , McKinney, TX
On April 29, 2010 an event happened that would change America’s Gulf of Mexico forever. At exactly 11:00 p.m., British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, fifty-two miles southeast of Louisiana’s port of Venice.

There were one hundred twenty six workers on the rig at the time of the explosion and at least eleven workers were reported missing. While the U.S Coast Guard was trying to find the missing workers, the rig was burning, leaving thirty miles of smoke in its path. When the fire was finally extinguished, the rig had already sunk to the bottom of the ocean. The U.S Coast Guard soon found that when the rig exploded, the eleven workers on the platform had died.

When the rig sank to the bottom of the ocean, scientists sent down underwater robots and discovered two “leaks” in the rig. The “leaks” were dumping 1,000 barrels of oil into the ocean per day. To prevent the “leak” from turning into a spill, the U.S Coast Guard suggested that the oil slick be put on fire. British Petroleum (BP) did what the U.S. Coast Guard suggested and lit the oil on fire, sending a huge plum of smoke into the sky, doing nothing to clean up the oil. Experts later found out that instead of releasing 1,000 barrels into the ocean per day, that the rig was actually releasing 5,000 barrels of oil into the ocean per day. BP soon realized this problem would take months to resolve, and by that time the “leak” would become what we know as the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010, making it the largest oil spill in American history.

How could something like this have occurred? Oil rigs don’t just explode into fire.
On April 20, 2010, BP was six weeks behind schedule, and it was costing them more than half a million dollars per day to run production, so they wanted to speed things up.

By doing this, they “cut corners” in the cement job when building the rig. Even though this was perfectly legal, it increased the chances of a blowout. This is exactly what BP got for their actions.

Could the spill have been resolved quicker? Yes and no. As the technology for drilling oil near or under water progressed, the technology for preventing spills and blowouts did not. Since the early 2000’s, as drilling technology increased, the risk of a blowout increased. The Minerals Management Services [MMS] were hardly concerned about this though, because based on research there was less than a one percent chance that a blowout would happen. A major blowout had not happened since the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in 1989. There had been a significant increase in oil leaks, with a reported thirty nine small spills between 1992 and 2006. Most occurred from cementing jobs.

Since the oil spill happened, everyone has been doing their best to clean up the spill, but what will happen to the environment? One environmentalist, Thomas Shirley, says there’s no way to wash the oil out of the Spartinia Marsh in Louisiana. It could take years to take the oil out, especially with strong waves and tides that hit it. Like what
Shirley said, “It’s [The Spartinia Marsh] just one big sponge.” Meaning the oil will stay there forever, and just keep soaking up more oil. The marsh is what protects Louisiana from the strong waves, and hurricanes that hit, and if the marshes die, it could remove a very important shield that protects Louisiana.

What about the animals? Well, Louisiana’s fishing industry will be scarred. The shrimp, crab, and oysters will be killed off. These fish produce ten percent of Louisiana’s

seafood money. Either because they ate the oil, or they ate an animal that had eaten oil before them, this will affect and mess up the whole food chain.

Not only were the undersea creatures affected, but many land animals were too, like sea turtles and birds. Over 3,000 birds showed up dead. Some died from eating oil-contaminated food, while others died because their bodies went into shock when oil was being cleaned off them. As for the sea turtles, 492 were dead, potentially putting them on the endangered species category. Only seventeen turtles were visibly oiled, but the rest died for the same reasons the birds did.

Not only were the birds and sea turtles affected, but also the mammals, like whales and dolphins. The mammals of the water have to come up to breathe the air. Since the water is infested with oil, they surface more to breath in fresh air. But instead of the fresh air that they are expecting, they breathe in the toxins that the oil gives off. So this means that the oil is not only affecting the sea, but the air too.

As for the beaches, well there is a total of 600 miles that is oiled. Tar balls have appeared on beaches ranging from parts of Galveston to some parts of Florida. Mostly affecting Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. This has been mostly affecting the tourism. Many of the beaches were closed, causing the tourism rate to go down.

The spill happened at 5,000 feet below sea level. This will affect things lower in the ocean too. The affects of this could last for decades, because of the natural process that breaks down the oil. This will make it dense enough to sink to the bottom of the ocean floor, affecting the sea-dwellers of the ocean for decades. This could even build up over time.


The disaster that struck America in April 2010, will affect many different aspects, from money to the environment. It will affect BP, tourism, and fishing industries, causing them to lose money. It will also affect the animals, and cause long-term affects on the environment. As you can see the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010 has changed America forever.

Bibliography

Bourne Jr., Joel K., “Gulf Oil Spill: Is Another Deepwater Disaster Inevitable?”, National Geographic Magazine, October 2010, 38-43

www.thedailygreen.com, “Gauging the Long-Term Impacts of the BP Oil Spill”, June 6th 2010

www.thewashingtonpost.com, “Sciencetists Watch for the Long-Term Effects of Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill”, May 1st 2010

www.suite101.com, “The Economic and Enviormental Impact of the BP Oil Spill 2010”, June 12th 2010

www.csmonitor.com, “Gulf’s Oil Spill’s Enviormental Impact: How Long to Recover?”, May 10th 2010

www.time.com, “The BP Spill: Has the Damage been Exaggerated?”, July 29th 2010





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