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Deepwater Horizon was an ultra-deepwater, dynamically positioned, semi-submersible offshore

oil drilling rig owned byTransocean. Built in 2001 in South Korea by Hyundai Heavy
Industries, the rig was commissioned by R&B Falcon, which later became part
of Transocean, registered in Majuro, Marshall Islands, and leased to BP from 2001 until
September 2013. In September 2009, the rig drilled the deepest oil well in history at a vertical
depth of 35,050 ft (10,683 m) and measured depth of 35,055 ft (10,685 m) in the Tiber Oil
Field at Keathley Canyon block 102, approximately 250 miles (400 km) southeast of Houston, in
4,132 feet (1,259 m) of water. On 20 April 2010, while drilling at the Macondo Prospect,
an explosion on the rig caused by a blowout killed 11 crewmen and ignited a fireball visible from
40 miles (64 km) away. The resulting fire could not be extinguished and, on 22 April
2010, Deepwater Horizon sank, leaving the well gushing at theseabed and causing the largest oil
spill in U.S. waters.

Design
Deepwater

Horizon was

fifth-generation,

RBS-8D

design

(i.e.

model

type),

deepwater, dynamically positioned, column-stabilized, semi-submersible mobile offshore drilling


unit, designed to drill subsea wells for oil exploration and production using an 18.75 in (476 mm),
15,000 psi (100,000 kPa) blowout preventer, and a 21 in (530 mm) outside diameter marine riser.
Deepwater Horizon was the second semi-submersible rig constructed of a class of two,
although Deepwater Nautilus, its predecessor, is not dynamically positioned. The rig was 396 by
256 ft (121 by 78 m) and capable of operating in waters up to 8,000 feet (2,400 m) deep, to a
maximum drill depth of 30,000 ft (9,100 m). In 2010 it was one of approximately 200 deepwater
offshore rigs capable of drilling in waters deeper than 5,000 ft (1,500 m). Its American Bureau of
Shipping (ABS) class notations were "A1, Column Stabilized Drilling Unit, AMS, ACCU, DPS-3".
In 2002, the rig was upgraded with "e-drill", a drill monitoring system whereby technical
personnel based in Houston, Texas, received real-time drilling data from the rig and transmitted
maintenance and troubleshooting information.
Advanced systems played a key role in the rig's operation, from pressure and drill monitoring
technology, to automated shutoff systems and modelling systems for cementing. The OptiCem
cement modelling system, used by Halliburton in April 2010, played a crucial part in cement
slurry mix and support decisions. These decisions became a focus for investigations into the
explosion on the rig that month.

History

Construction and ownership


Deepwater

Horizon was

built

for

R&B

Falcon

(which

later

became

part

of Transocean) by Hyundai Heavy Industries inUlsan, South Korea. Construction started in


December 1998, the keel was laid on 21 March 2000, and the rig was delivered on 23 February
2001, after the acquisition of R&B Falcon by Transocean. Until 29 December 2004 the rig was
registered in the Republic of Panama.
Transocean,

through

its Steinhausen,

Switzerland subsidiary Triton

Asset

Leasing

GmbH, operated the rig under theMarshallese flag of convenience. The rig was leased to BP on
a 3-year contract for deployment in the Gulf of Mexicofollowing construction. The lease was
renewed in 2004 for a year, 2005 for 5 years, and 2009 for 3 years covering 2010 to 2013. The
last contract was worth $544 million, or $496,800 a day, for a "bare rig", with crew, gear and
support vessels estimated to cost the same.
According to R&B Falcon's filings to SEC in 2001, the transfer document between R&B Falcon
and Transocean was dated 17 August 2001, and the rig was specified as "official registration
number of 29273-PEXT-1, IMO number of 8764597, with gross tonnage of 32,588 and net
tonnage of 9,778" and the transfer value as US $340 million. As of 2010, the rig was insured
for US $560 million covering the replacement cost and wreckage removal.

Drilling operations
Deepwater Horizon worked on wells in the Atlantis (BP 56%, BHP Billiton 44%) and Thunder
Horse (BP 75%, ExxonMobil25%) oil fields. It was described at times as a "lucky" and
"celebrated" rig,[29] and in 2007 was still described as "one of the most powerful rigs in the world".
[30]

In 2006 it discovered oil in the Kaskida oil field, and in 2009 the "giant" Tiber field.[31][32]The well

in the Tiber field has a vertical depth of 35,050 ft (10,683 m) and a measured depth of 35,055 ft
(10,685 m), below 4,132 ft (1,259 m) of water. The well was the deepest oil well in the world, and
more than 5,000 feet (1,500 m) further below the seabed than the rig's official drilling
specification stated on the company's fleet list.
In February 2010, Deepwater Horizon commenced drilling an exploratory well at the Macondo
Prospect (Mississippi CanyonBlock 252), about 41 miles (66 km) off the southeast coast
of Louisiana, at a water depth of approximately 5,000 feet (1,500 m).[37] The Macondo prospect
exploration rights were acquired by BP in 2009, [38] with the prospect jointly owned by BP
(65%), Anadarko (25%) and MOEX Offshore 2007 (10%).[39] Deepwater Horizon was still working
on the Macondo site on 20 April 2010, when a violent explosion occurred leading to destruction
of the rig and resulting oil spill. [40][41][42][43] The well was in the final stages of completion at the time;
its cement casing was injected and hardening, and the rig was due to move shortly to its next

role as a semi-permanent production platform at the Nile site followed by a return to the Kaskida
field.[29]The exploratory work was described as "concluded" and permission had already been
requested from MMS to terminate operations at the Macondo site.[44]
During its operational lifetime, the rig was actively in operation for 93% of its working life (2,896
of 3,131 days). The remainder partly relates to time spent between sites. [45]

Regulation, safety, and inspection


The Minerals Management Service (renamed on 18 June 2010 to the Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management, Regulation and Enforcement, or Bureau of Ocean Energy (BOE))[46]is the
regulatory and inspecting body for offshore oil drilling and rigs in the United States of America.
[46]

According to an Associated Press investigation, certain safety documentation and emergency

procedure information, including documentation for the exact incident that later occurred, was
absent.[45] The exact number of required monthly inspections performed varied over time; the
inspections were carried out as required for the first 40 months, but after that around 25% of
inspections were omitted,[45] although the investigation notes this is partly expected, since there
are circumstances such as weather and movement which preclude an inspection. [45] Reports of
the last three inspections for 2010 were provided under Freedom of Information legislation. Each
of these inspections had taken two hours or less.[45]
During its lifetime the rig received 5 citations for non-compliance, 4 of which were in 2002 (safety,
including the blowout preventer) and the other in 2003 (pollution). [45] A sixth citation in 2007
related to non-grounded electrical equipment was later withdrawn when the equipment was
determined to be compliant with regulations. [45] Overall the Deepwater Horizon's safety record
was "strong" according to a drilling consultant reviewing the information. [45] In 2009 the Minerals
Management Service "herald[ed] the Deepwater Horizon as an industry model for safety".
[45]

According to AP's investigation "its record was so exemplary, according to MMS officials, that

the rig was never on inspectors' informal 'watch list' for problem rigs". [45]

The Gulf oil spill is recognized as the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Within days of
the April 20, 2010 explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the
Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people, underwater cameras revealed the BP pipe
was leaking oil and gas on the ocean floor about 42 miles off the coast of
Louisiana. By the time the well was capped on July 15, 2010 (87 days later), an
estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil had leaked into the Gulf.
The well was located over 5,000 feet beneath the waters surface in the vast
frontier of the deep seaa permanently dark environment, marked by constantly
cold temperatures just above freezing and extremely high pressures.

Scientists divide the ocean into at least three zones, and the deep ocean
accounts for about three-quarters of Earths total ocean volume.
Immediately after the explosion, workers from BP and Transocean (owner of the
Deepwater Horizon rig), and many government agencies tried to control the
spread of the oil to beaches and other coastal ecosystems using floating booms
to contain surface oil and chemical oil dispersants to break it down underwater.
Additionally, numerous scientists and researchers descended upon the Gulf
region to gather data. Researchers are still trying to understand the spill and its
impact on marine life, the Gulf coast, and human communities.

ANATOMY OF AN OIL SPILL:


On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing eleven people and setting off
the largest marine oil spill in world history. A few days later, underwater cameras revealed that oil
and gas were leaking from the ocean floor about 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The oil well
leaked 4.9 million barrels of oil before it was capped nearly 3 months later on July 15, 2010.

THE DISASTER
The Deepwater Horizon rig sat 42 miles off the Louisiana shore, pumping oil up from
deep beneath the seafloor. On the night of April 20, a bubble of methane gas
escaped from the well and shot up the pipe towards the surface, causing an
explosion and fire. This tragically took the lives of 11 rig workers, while 115 others
were successfully evacuated. Crude oil and gases, buried deep beneath the
seafloor, began leaking from the oil well 5,000 feet down. Wind, waves and currents
spread the oil across the oceans surface to form a slick, which eventually covered
around 5,000 square milesabout the size of Connecticut.

BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF THE SPILL

This map depicts the full footprint of the oil spill: the entire area touched by oil over
the course of the 87-day leak. (This entire area was not covered at once.) South of
the spill are the prevailing paths of the Gulf of Mexicos Loop Current and a detached
eddy, which helped to contain the area of the oil spill and keep it from reaching
shore. It also includes where oil reached shore, major landmarks, and the location of
the rig.

The Oil's Spread

Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources


Mark Dodd, a wildlife biologist from Georgia's Department of Natural Resources,
surveying oiled sargassum seaweed in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater
Horizon oil spill in 2010.
Once the oil left the well, it spread throughout the water column. Some floated to
the ocean's surface to form oil slicks, which can spread more quickly by being
pushed by winds. Some hovered suspended in the midwater after rising from the
wellhead like a chimney and forming several layers of oil, dispersant and
seawater mixtures drifting down current; during the spill a 22-mile long oil
plume was reported. This plume formed because chemical dispersants, released
into the water to break up the oil so it could wash away, allowed the oil to mix
with seawater and stay suspended below the surface. And some oil sunk to the
seafloorby gluing together falling particles in the water such as bacteria and
phytoplankton to form marine snow. As much as 20 percent of the spilled oil may
have ended up on top of and in the seafloor, damaging deep sea corals and
potentially damaging other ecosystems that are unseen at the surface.

THE CLEANUP
The rig sank on April 22 after burning for more than a day. Workers did their best to stop the oil
from washing up on the Gulf shore, where it would be even more difficult to remove from fragile
coastal ecosystems. Some wildlife, such as birds and sea turtles, got stuck in the surface slick
during cleanup, endangering their lives.

DISTRESSED OILED ANIMALS

At the surface, thick crude oil touched any animals that had to move between air and
water. This includes seabirds, such as pelicans, who dipped from the sky into the
sea when they dove for fish. With their insulating feathers coated, the birds spent
their time cleaning themselves instead of eating or evading predators, and were
often killed without help from volunteers armed with soap. Also harmed were those
ocean creatures that come up to breathe at the surface, such as sea turtles and
dolphins. With mouths and nostrils clogged with oil, some of those animals
suffocated at sea.

Clean-up Methods

Credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory J. Mendenhall, U.S. Coast Guard
GRAND ISLE, La. -- Brown pelicans congregate on containment boom that
surrounds Queen Bess Island, a few miles north of Grand Isle, La. August 25,
2010. The island is a sensitive nesting area for brown pelicans. More about the
Gulf oil spill can be found in our Gulf oil spill featured story.
Physical Methods
When oil spills into the ocean, it is difficult to clean up. When you have 3.19
million barrels to clean up, it is even harder.
Part of the difficulty is that no two spills are alike. The amount and type of oil
(whether crude or refined) affects how it spreads, and a spill in seawater spreads
differently than freshwater. Local environmental conditions also play a huge role:
currents, tides, weather, wind speed and direction, air temperature, water
temperature and presence of ice all affect how the oil spreads and how well
cleanup workers can access the spill area. This variability makes it difficult to
plan for spills ahead of time.

Dispersants
On April 26, BP began adding dispersants to the oil. Dispersants are like strong soaps, which
cause the oil to break down and mix with water more easily to speed up its natural
biodegradation. As they combined, the oil became less buoyant, forming additional underwater
plumes while preventing the droplets from floating to the surface and spreading to the coasts. But
dispersants can also enter the food chain and potentially harm wildlife.

Removing spilled oil from the environment is a difficult task. Because oil is
hydrophobic (doesn't mix with water), it floats to the surface when it spills into
the ocean and forms large slicks. These slicks can wreak havoc on coastal
ecosystems and animals, so cleanup workers usedispersantschemicals that
break down the oil into smaller particles that mix with water more easilyto
prevent them from forming. Evaporation and bacteria can then degrade these
tiny droplets more quickly than if they were in a large slick, or waves can wash
them away from the spill site.

BACTERIA HELP CLEAN UP NATURALLY

Along with keeping the oil out of marshes, the dispersants helped to break down the
oil into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces are more easily eaten by oil-degrading
bacteria that live in the Gulf of Mexico and normally feed off of natural deep-sea oil
seepsits like their food was cut up for them. The bacteria were able to break down
the oil into harmless components, helping with the cleanup. However, they were not
able to clean up all of the oil, as some oil molecules are not as easily degraded.
Their long-term presence in the environment is a concern, especially if they are in
coastal marshes or muds or interacting with corals.

Ecosystem Effects

Effects on Wildlife
There were some immediate impacts to the animals of the Gulf of Mexico that
could be seen with the naked eye: pelicans black with oil, fish belly-up in brown
sludge, smothered turtles washed up on beaches. But not much time has passed
since the spill, and it will take many more years of monitoring and research to
understand what happened.

Credit: NOAA
Striped dolphins swim among emulsified oil patches on April 29, 2010 in the Gulf
of Mexico, a few days after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Strandings of both dolphins and sea turtles increased significantly in the years
following the spill. "From 2002 to 2009, the Gulf averaged 63 dolphin deaths a
year. That rose to 125 in the seven months after the spill in 2010 and 335 in all
of 2011, averaging more than 200 a year since April 2010,"reported Reuters in
2015. Since then, dolphin deaths have declined, and long-term impacts on the
population are not yet known. Kemp's ridley sea turtle nests have gone down in
the years since the spill, and long-term effects are not yet known.
Seabirds were initially harmed by crude surface oileven a small bit of oil on
their feathers impeded their ability to fly, swim and find food by diving. Seabird
losses may have numbered in the hundreds of thousands, but reliable estimates
are hard to come by. Looking beyond the sea, researchers are currently studying
how oil may have affected land birds that live in the marshes along the Gulf
coast.
Invertebrates in the Gulf were hard hit by the Deepwater Horizon spillboth in
coastal areas and in the deep. Shrimp fisheries were closed for much of the year
following the spill, but these commercially-important species now seem to have

recovered. Deep-water corals grow very slowly and can live for many centuries.
Found as deep as 4,000 feet below the surface, corals near the blowout showed
signs of tissue damage and were covered by an unknown brown substance, later
identified as oil from the spill. Laboratory studies conducted with coral species
showed that baby coral exposed to oil and dispersant had lower survival rates
and difficulty settling on a hard surface to grow.
The impact of the spill on fish communities is still largely unknown. Lab studies
have shown that oil can cause heart defects in the developing larvae of bluefin
tuna and other fish, but we won't know if this occurred in the wild until after
those larvae would have grown up. Some fish larvae populations actually grew
after the spill, as they had more food in the form of oil-eating microbes.
There were some reports of deformed wildlife after the spill. For years following
the spill there were reports of fish with lesions and deformities, and some reports
of eyeless and deformed shrimp after the spill. However, consuming Gulf seafood
is now completely safe.
Over 1,000 miles of shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico, from Texas to Florida, was
impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Much of this area has been
cleaned, but eroded shorelines are taking longer to recover and erosion rates
have accelerated in these areas.