BP bombshell: Worst spill in US history

It has been 64 days since the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil gushes out of the Macando well at a rate of approximately 795,000 litres per day at best.

The leak has become the biggest environmental disaster in United States history.

On April 20, millions of litres of oil began pouring into the Gulf of Mexico due to a blast on the rig Deepwater Horizon, just off the coast of Louisiana. The blast killed 11 BP workers and eventually sunk the Deepwater Horizon.

BP warns that the industry needs to change its operating procedure, but its competitors think that although new regulations are inevitable, if the regulations are too harsh they could have unintended consequences on the industry that need to be taken into consideration. Professor Alex Latta of the WLU Global Studies department agrees.

“It is certainly time to question the wisdom of deep-sea oil drilling, but doing this in isolation really just shifts the problems elsewhere,” said Latta.

“The BP spill should remind us instead that it is time to rethink our addiction to an oil economy.”

Finger-pointing, political debates and many attempts to plug the leak have become the focal point of the ordeal, with very little progress being made.

Immediately after the disaster, the Obama administration declared a moratorium on deepwater drilling. This was recently overturned by Judge Martin Feldman.

The Governors of Louisiana and Mississippi agree with the judge’s decision.
Despite the disaster, preventing more drilling would cause further economic damage to their already fragile states.

Initial plans to contain the oil including a procedure known as a “junk shot” using shredded tires and golf balls to stuff the leak and a “top kill” that involves stuffing the leak with heavy fluids, have all failed and may have caused more damage.

Finally a containment cap placed over one of the leaks on June 5 was removed June 23 due to growing concerns that gas rising from the holes in the cap presented an explosion risk.

Environmentally protected areas around Louisiana have become flooded with heavy oil and thousands of volunteers are now dedicated to the cleanup effort. BP is an environmental disaster that nearly dwarfs all others in recent memory.

However, it is not the only environmental disaster occurring. Latta, being critical of national issues, noted that “in Canada we have an ongoing ecological nightmare in Northern Alberta’s tar sands.”

Similar atrocities can be seen across the globe. “In Nigeria, spilled oil – and corporate impunity – has become a way of life,” said Latta.

“In Ecuador and Peru, remote indigenous communities struggle against a new wave of oil and gas exploration that threatens their material and cultural basis for survival.”

BP has currently paid out an exorbitant amount of money to compensate those who have been affected by the spill and will continue to pay, a decision which Latta agrees with.

“Without a doubt BP should pay for cleanup and compensate those who have been affected by the ongoing spell, and a moratorium on offshore drilling is certainly a crucial first step,” he said. “But such learning can’t stop at an investigation.”

April 20 — Explosion and fire on Transocean Ltd’s drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, licensed to BP. Eleven workers killed.

April 22 — Deepwater Horizon rig sinks.

April 25 — First attempts to contain the leak by US Coast Guard fail.

April 29 — Obama pledges assisstance, Louisiana declares state of emergency.

April 30 — Obama aide declares no drilling. BP chief executive says the company takes full responsibility, will pay all legitimate claims.

May 2 — Obama visits Gulf Coast to see cleanup efforts.

May 9 — Junk shot manoeuvre ultimately fails.

May 11/12 — Executives from BP, Transocean and Haliburton appear at congressional hearings, blame each other.

May 16 — BP succeeds in inserting a tube into the leaking well, capturing some oil and gas.

May 29 — Top kill manoeuvre fails, crushing hopes for a quick end to the largest oil spill in US history.

June 17 — Republican Congressman Joe Barton apologizes to BP.

June 23 — BP robot bumps cap being used to contain leak, forcing engineers to remove it. All gas previously contained releasing at rate of 29 000 gallons per hour.

June 29 — Clean up crews estimate that their oil containment project absorbs 20,000 to 25,000 barrels a day.

Approximately 2.5 million gallons of oil is flowing from the site each day where the offshore rig exploded April 20th. This means at the end of this time line, approximately 250 million gallons of oil has been released into the Gulf.