The Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill and Its Environmental Effects

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Introduction

The Deep water horizon oil spill is a disaster that was happened on 20th April, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico in the depth of more than 18000 feet in the sea. BP and its contributors were drilling well of the Maconda oil in the Gulf of Mexcio and cementing was done in the steel covering of the well. Suddenly a dangerous methane gas rose up to the surface of the sea that caused an explosion and everything was on fire and Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was collapsed and destroyed. It was in the final stage when the explosion was happened. The sink was completely destroyed that even 11 crew members out of 126 were also lost at that time. 17 people were also injured in the incident.

Due to explosion after such a great disaster, there was an uncontrolled leakage of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The number of efforts was made to control that leakage but everything was in vain. After three months. Leakage was controlled and well was sealed after a loss of almost 500 million barrels of oil. The researcher further more depicts that the disaster was caused not because of the technical mistake but also a human error (Flournoy, 2011). The deep water horizon oil spill is known by its several names like BP oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico, BP oil spill and Maconda blowout. That oil spill is considered as the largest oil spill of the world in the petroleum industry covered almost 84 days. The casualties in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon included 11 crew (workers) and 17 others were injured. When the deep water Horizon explosion was happened, the rig was piercing.

Literature Review

Jonathan L. Ramseur (2010) described in his study that the cause of explosion were the release of hydrocarbons like natural gas and oil etc. He described in his research work of the factors that impact on the fate of the oil spill are numerous like complexity of natural processes, oil chemical composition and its location. He said that in 2010 the discharge of crude oil is relatively in lesser quantity than the other oil hence it evaporate more quickly as depicted in the NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL REPORT - OIL IN THE SEA III (2003) that evaporation can eliminate the 1/3rd portion of the average crude oil within the 1st day of discharge. Natural processes also affect along with location of spill like the temperature of warmer water will accelerate natural processes of dissolution, biodegradation and evaporation etc. (John M. Hayes, 2011)

Illustrates that the hydrocarbons that are water soluble is having implications in the deep water oil spill. His research indicates that a great volume of water soluble compounds and hydrocarbons like C1-C3 keep there in the deep water and the petroleum compounds that are insoluble were send to the surface of the sea. He concluded in his research that “In the case of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, however, gas and oil experienced a significant residence time in the water column with no opportunity for the release of volatile species to the atmosphere. Hence, water-soluble petroleum compounds dissolved into the water column to a much greater extent than is typically observed for surface spills” (John M. Hayes, 2011). (Richard Camilli, 2010) Concludes that after deep water explosion more than 400 million barrel of oil was released into the Gulf of Mexico that is app. 636 million litres. Its depth is about 1500 m below the surface of the sea.

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Evidence shows that the deepwater horizon oil spill is the largest marine oil spill that happened in April 2010. Apart of its duration of stay and its size, it is different from the previous spell because of various factors like the discharge of spill is not only of oil but a large amount of natural gas was also released. Also because the spill is in deep sea ocean, some components of oil and almost all components of gas stay in the deep sea forming plumes of hydrocarbons in the depth of 1000-1300 m of the sea. The dangerous components of hydrocarbons were also contained in the oil plumes along with non-gaseous components such as total xylenes (BTEX), toluene, benzene and methylbenzene. In the deep sea ocean, the temperature was 4 to 6 degree centigrade, and the temperature directly affects the physical properties of oil and microbial physiology, both of these components ultimately influence degrading bacteria of hydrocarbons (Molly C. Redmond & Paul G., 2011).

Alyson C. Flournoy (2011) described that several lessons have to be learned from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. By adpting these measures, we will reduce the risk of future disasters in the economy. “The three meta-lessons are to endeavor to: (1) learn from the next disaster; (2) learn from the blueprint of the disaster; and (3) learn from the context of the disaster” (Flournoy, 2011). The government and the industry should work together to establish safety and a culture that facilitate them to learn from their mistakes. It also depicts the phenomena of “hollow government”, the resouces lacked by the government and they have the power to protect the interest of the general public.

Causes

The major cause that why explosion was happened is the cement failure at the bottom of the bore and the bore was not sealed at that time that results into the elimination or discharge of oil and gas from the pipeline and was spreading all the Gulf surface. This was basically a human and mechanical error that the natural gas was enabled under a terrific pressure to discharge onto a drilling stage, and hence explosion takes place and it took almost 85-87 days to gain into control. The deep water horizon and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was also caused because they didn’t incorporate adequate cement between the production casing (7-inch) and protection casing (7/8 inch). The failure of BOP is also a issue but it’s secondary. The Gulf of Mexico is contaminated also and explosion may also results because of poor risk management and also because staff are not well trained by the companies. The disaster of deepwater horizon revealed the systematic weaknesses of oil and gas adminsitration. In the newspaper of THE NEW YORK TIMES published on 14 SEP, 2011 by John M. Broder, his report says that the main cause of disaster of Deepwater Horizon was a cement failure at the 18,000 depth of the well that was also supposed that it include hydrocarbons like gas and oil. Mechanical errors and human failures are also the reasons of this disaster.

Recommendations

In this case of deepwater horizon, crew members performed various pressure tests in order to determine either well was sealed or not. The results of these tests were misinterpreted by them and thought that the well was under their control. Staff should be trained enough to cope up with these emergency situations if and when required. Like in this case of deep water horizon,pressure tests were conducted but misinterpreted by them (crew). If they were sure that the well was properly sealed by having correct pressure tests attempted from time to time then situation will be different and can save from such explosion. But the crew were trained enough to cope up with these challenge and hence explosion happened because of these reasons. In this case, the attempt was to use the mechanism of blowout preventer (BOP) which was failed for sealing of the well. A vehicle that was opreated remotely should have to be use for BOP’s auto-shear mechanism actiavtion. The purpose of this is to either block or cut the pipe that delivers oil to the depth of the gulf surface.

A Battery for BOP

When the disaster happened and the control lines were completely destroyed after that huge explosion, the crew was closing the safety valves from the BOP (blowout preventer). There should a safety mechanism in a blowout preventer which incorporates two separate systems to automatically switch off the valves whenever BOP lost contact with the surface. In one system it should have a battery and the second one – a switch.

Gas Alarm

The system of gas alarm should be properly configured. A gas detection system was available in the rig also having the alarm and triggered the closure of ventilation fans to prevent the gas reaching potential causes of ignition, such as the rig’s engines.

Blowout Preventer (BoP)

If the BoP was properly working (which sits on the ocean floor over the top of the well borehole) and was properly tested by the crew and the crew are trained enough that they can easily detect the mixture of gas and mud gathered on the surface of the rig before the explosion.

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