The DEEP WATER HORIZON OIL SPILL occurred on April 20, 2010, on the Oil Drilling Rig Deepwater Horizon, which was operating in the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana. It is thought to be the world's largest known OIL SPILL DISASTER. The Persian Gulf War Oil Spill of 1991 was the largest oil spill in history (not a disaster), with Iraqi forces pouring more than 380 million gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf.
LOCATION OF THE OIL RIG:
• It was located in the Mississippi Canyon, a valley on the continental shelf, in the Macondo Oil Prospect.
• The Oil Well was 4,993 feet below the surface and extended about 18,000 feet into the rocks on the seabed.
CAUSE OF THE DISASTER: EXPLOSION:
• On the night of April 20, a surge of natural gas blasted through a concrete core which was installed to seal the well for later use.
• Because the core was made of a concrete mixture that used nitrogen gas to accelerate curing, it was unable to withstand the pressure of natural gas.
• After escaping through a crack in the concrete core, the gas rose to the platform and caught fire. On the morning of April 22, the RIG capsized and sank.
• There were 11 fatalities and 17 injuries among the workers.
• Oil covered a 2100 km stretch of the US Gulf Coast.
• An estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.
• The deaths of an estimated 800,000 birds and 65,000 turtles, as well as widespread wildlife damage.
• BP paid out $65 million in compensation to those who were affected by the oil spill.
METHODS TO CLEAN UP OIL SPILLS:
• Skimming – This is the process of removing oil from the sea surface before it reaches sensitive areas along the coast.
• In situ burning – This refers to burning a specific patch of oil after it has accumulated in one location.
• Chemical dispersant release–Releasing chemical dispersants helps break down oil into smaller droplets, making it easier for microbes to consume and breaking it down even further into less harmful compounds.
• Natural processes – In aquatic environments, natural processes such as weathering, evaporation, emulsification, biodegradation, and oxidation can help reduce the severity of an oil spill and speed up the recovery process.
• The petroleum that leaked from the well before it was sealed formed a slick that covered over 57,500 square miles (149,000 square kilometres) of Gulf of Mexico.
• To remove oil from open water, 1.8 million gallons of dispersants were pumped directly into the leak and applied aerially to the slick. Dispersants emulsify oil, making it easier for bacteria to digest it.
• Booms to corral portions of the slick were deployed, and the contained oil was then siphoned off or burned.
• When oil began to contaminate Louisiana beaches in May, it was manually removed; the state's marshes and estuaries, where the topography was knit together by delicate plant life, were more difficult to clean.
CONCERNS ASSOCIATED WITH OIL SPILLS:
• Oil spills harm marine life by exposing them to harsh environmental conditions and destroying their food and habitat sources.
• Oil spills can cause hypothermia in both birds and mammals; for example, oil destroys the insulating ability of fur-bearing mammals like sea otters.
• It also reduces the water repellency of birds' feathers, causing them to lose their ability to withstand cold water.
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF THE DISASTER:
• The Gulf Coast states' economic prospects were bleak, as the spill impacted many of the industries that residents relied on. At the height of the spill, more than a third of federal gulf waters were closed to fishing due to contamination concerns.
• An offshore drilling moratorium enacted by President Barack Obama's administration despite a district court reversal resulted in the temporary layoff of 8,000–12,000 people.
• Few travellers were willing to risk visiting beaches contaminated by petroleum, leaving those who rely on tourism to supplement their incomes.
• In response to Obama's demands, BP established a $20 billion compensation fund for those affected by the spill. Nearly a third of the fund had been distributed a year later, despite the fact that a lack of oversight allowed government entities to submit wildly inflated claims, some of which were unrelated to the spill. The fund was nearly depleted by 2013.
• The Joint Investigation Team of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and the United States Coast Guard released a report in September emphasising BP's ultimate responsibility for the disasterAlthough Halliburton installed the defective concrete cap, the report stated that BP's decisions about the installation process were to blame for the failure. The investigation also discovered that BP and Transocean employees on board the rig ignored early signs of a problem while conducting testing procedures, missing opportunities to prevent a full-scale blowout. BP representatives admitted that their company was to blame for some of the factors that contributed to the spill, but they also pointed out that their partner companies were to blame. Similarly, Halliburton and Transocean pointed to failures on the part of the other parties.
OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN:
• The phenomenon of falling organic material and biological debris cascading down a water column like snowflakes is known as marine snow.
• An oil spill, such as DEEP WATER HORIZON, adds oil and dispersants to the mix, resulting in marine oil snow that is toxic to deep-sea organisms.
• Maritime Snow transports oil and its negative effects from the water column to the sediments at the seafloor's bottom, providing sediments and deep-sea ecosystems with a more diverse suite of oxygenated compounds. Many oil compounds in their oxygenated forms are more toxic to sediment-dwelling organisms than their non-oxygenated counterparts.
• As the oil sinks into the water, it creates a microhabitat for microbes that prefer hydrocarbons and oil-like compounds to flourish.
PRESENT DAY SITUATIONS:
• Former members of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling noted in 2020, ten years after the disaster, that the US Congress had failed to act on most of the recommendations in the final report.
• Fish in the Gulf of Mexico continued to show signs of contamination by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, according to a study published in the journal Nature in 2020. (PAHs).
RECENT OIL SPILLS:
MAURITIUS OIL SPILL
The MV Wakashio, a Japanese bulk carrier ship carrying fuel oil, has split in two near Blue Bay Marine Park in South-East Mauritius.
ARCTIC OIL SPILL
The thermoelectric power plant near Norilsk City (Russia's Nickel Capital), about 3000 kilometres northeast of Moscow, is built on permafrost
that has weakened over time as a result of climate change. The pillars that supported the fuel tank began to sink, allowing diesel oil to leak into the Ambarnaya River.
• Owners of vessels are liable for damage caused by oil leaks under the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution, 2001.
• The International Maritime Organization (IMO) administers this convention, also known as the Bunker Convention, which went into effect in 2008..
MAJOR OIL SPILLS OF THE MARITIME WORLD:
1. GULF WAR OIL SPILL (1991)
2. MAURITIUS OIL SPILL (2020)
3. NORILSK OIL SPIL (2020)
4. DEEPWATER HORIZON (2010)
5. IXTOC 1 OIL WELL (1979)
6. ATLANTIC EMPRESS (1979)
7. NOWRUZ FIELD PLATFORM (1983)
8. ABT SUMMER (1991)
9. CASTILLO de BELLVER (1983)