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The Deep Water Horizon otherwise known as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is the largest tragic spillage of oil in the history of the United States of America. On April 20th, 2010, an explosion occurred causing a sink in the Deepwater Horizon rig resulting in the death of eleven people (Catalano, 34). Within 87 days, the underground pipes had leaked over 130 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Once the oil spilled, it spread fast to ocean surfaces being navigated by the wind. However, some oil remained suspended in the midwater forming several layers of oil.
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The layers of oil form a 22-mile long plume as a result of the clean-up methods that were used to break up the oil (Catalano 45). The chemical dispersants used to split the oils allowed the oil to mix with seawater and stayed suspended on below the water surface. Also, some oil clogged with water particles such as microorganisms and sea plants such as phytoplankton forming marine snow. The marine snow had a destructive effect on the deep-sea coral reefs and the sea ecosystem.
If BP and its business partners, Halliburton, Transocean, and Anadarko had not plunged into some cost cutting decisions, they would have avoided the oil spill disaster on the Deepwater Horizon (Woolfson 498). Several decisions that these partners made when during the drilling of the Deepwater Horizon d were meant to reduce expenses and save time. There are several steps that BP and its drilling partners would have taken to avoid pre-loss and post-loss in the fatal accident. These measures include:
BP, the company which owned the well in the Gulf of Mexico could have enforced proper controls to handle the risks that might occur. People make the right decisions when there is the presence of adequate controls in place in case of a blow-out. Alternatively, BP should have consulted an engineer and get their view on the whole drilling process.
Adequate safety standards
A tradition of complacency took center stage in the Deepwater Horizon rig. A genuine commitment to security as a priority guide for BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and Anadarko would have helped them avoid the fatal tragedy. Also, if the responsible government regulatory bodies had insisted on ensuring that these partners maintained the best safety standards, likely the accident would not have occurred.
Proper oversight of construction
Halliburton, the oil and gas equipment company involved in cementing the bottoms of the oil wells did a messy job. BP’s incapability to exercise their right to the proper supervision on the cementing job caused the accident. Had BP paid more attention to the construction of the well they would not have misread pressure indications that the well was leaking.
Analysis of the risk factors
BP engineering team did not conduct a formal analysis of the impact of risk factors associated with the cementing job done by Halliburton. In fact, BP chose a string well design and replaced heavy drilling mud in the riser pipes with water from the sea before the well was sealed properly. Attention to a combination of these risk factors would not cause pre-loss and post-loss damages.
Transocean, the partner that was undertaking the Deepwater Horizon drilling, did not communicate clearly to its staff about the possible risks of their job. If the company had made the risks clear to the workers, a leak would not have occurred in the first place.
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Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spillage
The catastrophic oil spillage on the Deepwater Horizon rig caused several negative consequences (Catalano 7). The effects of the oil spillage are as follows:
The oil spillage affected various industries which residents along the Gulf Coast depended upon resulting in bad economic prospects. The closing of a third of the federal fishing waters during the spill affected fishing significantly. A moratorium that enacted after the spill left many people unemployed. Also, seafood shops had to close temporarily due to fishing problems as a result of the oil spillage. Industries that were dealing with tourism services encountered tremendous losses as very few tourists were willing to put up with petroleum-sullied beaches. As a result of slow tourism activities, those who solely depended on tourism for income had to find other ways of generating income. However much these people we compensated by BP, in 2013 the funds were depleted.
The spilled oil covered birds, mammal, and sea turtles. In December 2013, almost half of dolphins found in the Gulf of Mexico were sick. These dolphins suffered from adrenal and lung disease associated with ingestion of oil. The spillage caused a serious fertility problem in the sea animals. In fact, some pregnant dolphins could not give birth since the fetuses were affected by the ingestion of oil. Many birds died because of the effects of oil. These birds’ ingested oils or the oil which covered them changed their bodies’ ability to regulate temperatures. As a matter of fact, the oil’s effect on the brown pelican made this bird species endangered. Also, the chemical dispersants that were used to clear up the oil spills affected the coral reefs negatively.
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The oil extended several miles past the Gulf of Mexico before the closing of the well (Lin., et al. 3739). The oil spillages were cleaned using chemical dispersants. The chemical dispersants break down the oil making it easy for bacteria to break it down. In some case, clearing the volatile oil was done by burning. In other beaches such as Louisiana manual removal of oil applied. However, areas with plants and estuaries as well as marshes were a bit difficult to clean.
The lessons learned from the oil spillage are as follows:
- The government should implement a successful risk assessment and management strategy for the oil industry.
- The government should ensure that corporate institutions do not jeopardize risk management programs like those in the ISO System and the ISM Code.
- Sponsoring a team of scientists and engineers meant to analyze such projects before an accident happens.
- Government bodies such as the U.S. Coast Guard should be given enough resources to make radiation accessible once the spillage has occurred.
- Using modern technology should be utilized in job training for rig operators.
- Increasing the environment regulatory standards covering the coastal area and ensuring that the oil industry follows these regulations.
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- Catalano, George D. “Tragedy in the Gulf: A call for a new engineering ethic.” Synthesis Lectures on Engineers, Technology, and Society 5.1 (2010): 1-93.
- Woolfson, Charles. “Preventable Disasters in the offshore oil industry: from Piper Alpha to Deepwater Horizon.” New solutions: a journal of environmental and occupational health policy 22.4 (2013): 497-524.
- Lin, Qianxin, and Irving A. Mendelssohn. “Impacts and recovery of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on vegetation structure and function of coastal salt marshes in the northern Gulf of Mexico.” Environmental science & technology 46.7 (2012): 3737-3743.