Impact of the BP oil spill remains

It’s been 10 years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, and new research shows that worst oil spill in U.S. history was 30% larger than previously estimated. Oceana released a new report examining the cause and impacts of the catastrophe; how those impacts are still being felt today, and whether the disaster changed the government and industry’s approach to offshore drilling.
People Impacted
$ 14B
Potential Funding
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the problem
Nature and Context

The Deepwater Horizon was an offshore oil rig located in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Louisiana, owned and operated by Transocean and chartered to BP plc (British Petroleum). On April 20, 2010, while on the Macondo Prospect, a burst of methane gas ignited an explosion on the rig, killing 11 workers and injuring 17. Despite implementing fail-safes to prevent an oil spill, workers were unable to extinguish the fire and less than two days later, the rig sank to the ocean floor. (EPA, NOAA Fisheries)

Over a period of 87 days, the equivalent of nearly 4 million barrels of oil spilled into the ocean, marking the largest marine oil spill in history. Efforts to contain the spill were unsuccessful at first, from attempts to cover the spill with a containment dome to pumping drilling mud into the well. On July 15, 2010, the spill was finally contained by a cap and on September 19, the well was permanently sealed with relief wells.

Significant cleanup efforts took place to remove the oil from the ocean and beaches, as more than 1000 miles of coastline were affected. Following a series of investigations into the spill, BP pleaded guilty to charges including manslaughter for the deaths in the explosion and violations of environmental protection acts. In 2015, after a complex litigation process, a final settlement was reached for $20.8 billion, the largest corporate fine in US history. (Britannica)

Symptoms and Causes
  • Failure of safety systems

  • Insufficient risk management

  • Insufficient emergency response training

  • Ignored safety regulations

  • Failure to report changes in drilling operations

  • Insufficient government oversight

  • Insufficient oversight of contractors

(New York Times)

the impact
Negative Effects
  • Damage to Gulf Coast ecosystems including habitats in the ocean and on the ocean floor

  • Shoreline erosion

  • Deformities, injury, and death to ocean wildlife

  • Oil slicks (oil rises to the ocean surface) spread across the ocean by wind

  • Chemical exposure to cleanup workers

  • Contaminated seafood

  • Increased stress and anxiety of communities in affected areas


Economic Impact
  • $61.6 billion in court fees, fines, and cleanup costs for BP

  • $700 million lost in revenue from fishing and tourism industry

  • 6-month drilling moratorium after the spill with 3,000 jobs lost

 (The Balance)

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