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Geology LibreTexts

17.5: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill began on the 20th of April 2010 on a British Petroleum operated oil platform located in the Golf of Mexico. The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig claimed eleven lives and was caused by a wellhead blowout on the sea floor that subsequently poured the full flow of the blown well into the ocean for 87 days until it was finally capped on July 15th, 2010. This is considered the largest accidental oil spill in history with an estimated 4.9 billion barrels of oil discharged over the 87 days.

As the oil left the damaged wellhead 5000 feet below the oceans surface it spread throughout the water column. Immediately after the explosion BP and many government agencies attempted to control the spread of the oil. They used oil dispersion agents, skimmer ships, controlled burns, floating booms, and any other strategy available to mitigate the spread of the massive amount of oil to the surrounding coastal and ocean ecosystems. Today the Gulf is still not oil free, and NOAA is in the process of tracking oil from the spill and assessing damages to natural resources in the region.

Deepwater-Horizon-wellhead.jpg

Figure: Deepwater Horizon Blown Wellhead: http://www.defendersblog.org/wp-cont...n-wellhead.jpg

References

  1. Smithsonian Deepwater Horizon information page: http://ocean.si.edu/gulf-oil-spill
  2. NOAA Information on the Deepwater Horizon spill and response: http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/deepwaterhorizon