Three years ago, the world watched and waited as an underwater pipe spewed crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and injuring 17 others.
The rig quickly sank to the bottom.
Blowout prevention systems designed to shut off the flow of oil in such cases had failed.
The thing about the busted BP well is that it was not fixed within a matter of days, or even a week. It continued to belch tens of thousands of gallons of oil every day for the better part of a month while BP desperately attempted to plug the hole.
BP finally managed to stop the flow on July 15. By that time, 4.9 million barrels of oil had poured into the Gulf of Mexico, sullying beaches all along the U.S. south coast and disrupting fishing activities.
Yet, as late as September — even after it agreed to provide billions in cleanup costs — BP was absolving itself of wrongdoing in the matter.
“We don’t believe we have been grossly negligent in anything we’ve seen in any of the investigations,” BP director Bob Dudley told the Houston Chronicle.
Apparently, Mr. Dudley was very much alone in his opinion.
On Tuesday of this week, three years after the fact, the Christian Science Monitor reported that BP has finally been released of its cleanup duties on the southern coastline.
“BP and the U.S. government have decided that beaches in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi are clean enough now compared to just after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, and that BP no longer needs to send out regular patrols to clean the tar from the coastline.”
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The coast guard insisted further patrols would serve no purpose.
“Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Murphy explained that the amounts of oil are minute compared to before, and it has gotten to the stage that the cleanup work itself could actually cause more damage to the environment as it damages habitats and nests for birds and sea turtles.”
Why should we care about this in Newfoundland?
Because the day after the Monitor’s story, Statoil announced it has discovered an oil reserve in the Flemish Pass, the second in two years.
But the wellheads would be 1,100 metres below the surface. They would be deepwater wells.
Deepwater Horizon was 1,524 metres deep.
The same year it blew up, Chevron was exploring a well in the Orphan Basin that would have been 2,600 metres deep — a mile and a half below the
surface. The company is still exploring in the same region.
Last month, Royal Dutch Shell announced it would go ahead with the deepest well in the world
— almost two miles below the surface.
In the Gulf of Mexico.
The industry insists it’s learned its lesson since Deepwater Horizon (although BP’s Felipe Bayon made reporters turn off their recorders when he spoke Wednesday at the Noia conference).
But any caution that was expressed in 2010 seems to have washed away with the tide.