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OFFSHORE IN DEPTH

RON BITTO, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Deepwater Horizon, five years later


Its been five years since the Deepwater Gulf Coast tourism, and fund research on stricter spill response guidelines, 10 Gulf
Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the effects of oil spills on marine ecosys- of Mexico operators have invested over $1
and the incident continues to widely im- tems. In March 2015, BP published a status billion in the non-profit Marine Well Con-
pact the offshore industry and the publics report that paints a positive picture of the tainment Company, which has built a fleet
perception of oil and gas development. Gulfs health, five years after the accident. of rapid-response vessels and equipment to
On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Ho- According to the reports introduction, quickly contain deepwater spills.
rizon semisubmersible lost control of the The science is showing that most of the Industrys strong recovery. Predic-
Macondo well in Mississippi Canyon environmental impact occurred immedi- tions that the 2010 drilling moratorium
Block 252, southeast of Louisiana. Eleven ately after the accident Areas that were and subsequent regulations would drive
men were killed in the explosion, the rig affected are recovering, and data BP has deepwater rigs out of the Gulf were largely
burned for 18 hours and then sank, and collected and analyzed, to date, do not in- unfounded. Once the moratorium was
for the next 87 days, more than 3 MMbbl dicate a significant long-term impact to the lifted, activity gradually recovered, reach-
of crude oil were released into the Gulf population of any Gulf species. ing the pre-accident level of 50 units in
of Mexico before the well was eventually Environmental groups, like the National September 2012, and peaking at 63 rigs
brought under control. Wildlife Federation, immediately rejected in August 2014, before tapering off in the
The Presidential Report on the incident BPs report as propaganda. The groups con- wake of lower oil prices.
concluded that a combination of mistakes, tended that BP had cherry-picked data to After several years of slow decline, the
poor decisions and faulty equipment led support its views, and questioned the tim- U.S. EIA expects Gulf oil production to
to the blowout. An inadequate casing pro- ing of the report, which BP released before increase to 1.5 MMbpd this year, as eight
gram, a poor cement job, a misinterpreted the U.S. government could publish the find- new deepwater fields come online. Strong
pressure test, poorly maintained blowout ings of its National Resource Damage As- interest in the last two Central Gulf lease
preventers, and personnel who lacked ex- sessment on the spills long-term impacts. sales shows the industrys ongoing belief in
perience in handling emergencies all con- Governmental response. After the GOM prospects.
tributed to the disaster. With the drilling Coast Guard took command of the well Second-most serious fallout. Aside
curve already five weeks behind schedule, control operation, the U.S. federal govern- from the 11 lives that were lost five years
the rig crew felt cost pressure that likely ments first response to the disaster was ago, possibly the most serious fallout from
compromised safety. declaring a six-month deepwater drilling Deepwater Horizon may be the industrys
Staggering impact on companies. The moratorium. Although the industry ar- damaged credibility. Drill, baby, drill, has
blowout and spill had a devastating effect on gued against the ban, the administration become a punch line for environmental-
the companies involved in the project. BP had no responsible alternative, as the well ists, proof of the industrys recklessness.
has paid, or committed to pay, $28 billion raged out of control, and a huge cleanup ef- Despite BPs assertions about the Gulf
in clean-up and settlement claims, and is di- fort lay ahead. clean-up, serious questions remain about
vesting $50 billion in assets to cover the cost. Following the disaster, the Department long-term environmental impacts. The
Anadarko and MOEX, BPs partners on the of Interior divided the Minerals Manage- images of a burning rig and tar on Gulf
well, have paid $4 billion and $1.07 billion, ment Service, which previously had re- beaches are reasons for Eastern seaboard
respectively. Transocean agreed to pay fines sponsibility for all aspects of OCS leasing states to oppose new offshore leasing. The
and penalties of $1.4 billion. Halliburton and regulation, into three separate entities. disaster also undermined the publics trust
agreed to pay $1.1 billion to BP. Cameron, The Office of Natural Resources Revenue in the industrys ability to safely perform
the BOP manufacturer, paid BP $250 mil- now collects all revenue from lease-hold- hydraulic fracturing. The bad rap carries
lion, and Weatherford paid $75 million. ers. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Manage- over to concerns about Arctic drilling,
After lengthy court proceedings, U.S. ment (BOEM) manages development of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline,
District Judge Carl Barbier ruled in Sep- the nations offshore resources. And the and rail transportation of Bakken crude.
tember 2014 that BP was grossly negligent Bureau of Safety and Environmental En- Our industry has safely, and responsibly,
and could be held liable for spilling 3.19 forcement (BSEE) enforces safety and en- met bigger challenges than all of these, but
MMbbl of oil, with potential fines of up to vironmental regulations. a continued, patient effort will be needed
$13.7 billion under the Clean Water Act. Under the new framework, BSEE has to fully overcome the impact of mistakes
Questions about the environment. issued new requirements for worker com- made on one rig in April 2010.
BP has waged a major PR campaign to petency, materials tracking and regular RON.BITTO@GMAIL.COM / Ron Bitto has more than 30 years of
show that it has made every effort to clean inspections that affect all offshore opera- experience as a technology marketer and writer in the upstream oil and
up the beaches, revive fisheries, promote tors and service companies. In response to gas industry.

World Oil/APRIL 201529