Gulf Coast Disaster
Largest Accidental Marine Oil Spill in the History of the Petroleum Industry

Gulf Coast Disaster
Largest Accidental Marine Oil Spill in the History of the Petroleum Industry

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the largest accidental marine oil spill in history.

On January 5, 2011, the White House oil spill commission released a final report detailing faults by the companies that led to the spill.

The panel found that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean had attempted to work more cheaply and thus helped to trigger the explosion and ensuing leakage.

A look at one of America's biggest environmental disasters and the largest oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico since 1979.

The presidential commission investigating the Gulf oil spill is struggling to formulate an oil drilling policy for the future.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which flowed for three months in 2010. It is the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

The spill stemmed from a sea-floor oil gusher that resulted from the April 20, 2010, explosion of Deepwater Horizon, which drilled on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect.

The explosion killed 11 men working on the platform and injured 17 others. On July 15, 2010, the leak was stopped by capping the gushing wellhead, after it had released about 4.9 million barrels (780,000 m3) of crude oil.

An estimated 53,000 barrels per day (8,400 m³/d) escaped from the well just before it was capped.

It is believed that the daily flow rate diminished over time, starting at about 62,000 barrels per day and decreasing as the reservoir of hydrocarbons feeding the gusher was gradually depleted.

On September 19, 2010, the relief well process was successfully completed, and the federal government declared the well "effectively dead". The spill caused extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and to the Gulf's fishing and tourism industries.

Skimmer ships, floating containment booms, anchored barriers, sand-filled barricades along shorelines, and dispersants were used in an attempt to protect hundreds of miles of beaches, wetlands, and estuaries from the spreading oil.

Scientists also reported immense underwater plumes of dissolved oil not visible at the surface as well as an 80-square-mile (210 km²) "kill zone" surrounding the blown well.

In late November 2010, 4,200 square miles (11,000 km²) of the Gulf were re-closed to shrimping after tar balls were found in shrimpers' nets. The amount of Louisiana shoreline affected by oil grew from 287 miles (462 km) in July to 320 miles (510 km) in late November 2010.

In January 2011, an oil spill commissioner reported that tar balls continue to wash up, oil sheen trails are seen in the wake of fishing boats, wetlands marsh grass remains fouled and dying, and crude oil lies offshore in deep water and in fine silts and sands onshore.

A research team found oil on the bottom of the seafloor in late February 2011 that did not seem to be degrading. On May 26, 2011, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality extended the state of emergency related to the oil spill.

By July 9, 2011, roughly 491 miles (790 kilometers) of coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida remained contaminated by BP oil, according to a NOAA spokesperson. The U.S. Government has named BP as the responsible party, and officials have committed to holding the company accountable for all cleanup costs and other damage.

After its own internal probe, BP admitted that it made mistakes which led to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. In June 2010 BP set up a $20 billion fund to compensate victims of the oil spill. To July 2011, the fund has paid $4.7 billion to 198,475 claimants. In all, the fund has nearly 1 million claims and continues to receive thousands of claims each week.