15 Nov 2022


The Worst Oil Spill in the History of the Petroleum Industry

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British Petroleum's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been recognized as the worst oil spill in the history of the United States of America. The explosion of the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon that operated in the Macondo project in the Gulf of Mexico occurred on April 20, 2010, resulting in the death of 11 workers. It was stated that 4 million barrels of oil flowed from Macondo well-causing damage in duration over the 87day period before it was finally stopped on July 15, 2010 (Fingas, 2016) . The US filed a complaint in District Court against British petroleum exploration and production, Halliburton, and Transocean, the contractor responsible for sealing the damaged well were responsible for the explosion and damage, but British Petroleum (BP) was fully responsible. Laws were enhanced to regulate all the activities regarding oil explosions. The laws to regulate all the activities surrounding oil exploration, drilling wells, valve types, types of lifeboats, and types of well one can drill were initiated. The mineral management service was criticized for failure to inspect wells and regulations on good permits. Since the spill, the US government formulated that mineral management services will have three divisions and renamed it Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement. This bureau would manage gas leases and permits, and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue will act on revenue collection and enforcement (Fingas, 2016) . Additionally, the newly established Bureau of Safety and Environmental enforcement will manage the environmental aspects and safety of offshore oil and gas operations. Through adequate law enhancement, another occurrence of explosion can be limited. The spill had ecological impacts that affected the seaweed and sea organisms. The research done after the spill indicated a drastic die-off of seaweeds from 60 to 10 species (Fingas, 2016) . The crustacean communities which depend on seaweeds decreased both in species number and abundance. Death of marine animals such as dolphins was estimated to be 50% and others had a worse prognosis. More than 1000 sea turtles were found dead with oil in their mouths and pharyngeals (Finglas, 2016) . Additionally, the spill threatened fish species, birds, and wildlife along the shores. The animal inhalation, absorption, and ingestion of oil particles revealed organ damage, lowered immune system, skin irritation and behavior changes. The oil industry's future risk assessment should focus on spill prevention and quick response in case an oil spill occurs. Risk assessment is useful to control equipment, and human knowledge and combine all the methods to evaluate failures and the probability of those failures occurring. Through proper employee training and adequate skills in case a leakage the employees can clean up with low environmental damage (Fingas, 2016) . The oil companies should maintain updated infrastructure, regular equipment inspection, and evaluation of the changes in the environmental conditions. Old oil pipes should be replaced with new ones to minimize leakages. The economic impact as a result of the spill-affected different stakeholders both directly or indirectly. Fishing, hotels and restaurants, and businesses tied to tourism had the most immediate effect. The commercial production of fish decreased by 20% leaving the livelihood of Gulf fishers in an unwarranted situation (Nelson & Grubesic, 2018). Rental reservations for tourists declined by 25% due to the negative public perception created by the media and uncertainty about the quality of water. BP paid $500,000 to Lee County for advertisements to counter the negative public opinion of the area (Nelson & Grubesic, 2018). After three years, tourism had made a comeback in the area and fishing had started to take effect. Ecological value can be defined as the benefits the ecosystem provides such as minerals, biota, water, and other factors that form natural ecosystems and give support to all life forms. The probabilistic risk assessment is used in this case to evaluate the initiator factors of the oil spill, the severity of consequences as a result of the oil spill, and the probability of the oil spill occurring in the future. In our case, if BP had done a Probabilistic risk assessment, they would have analyzed the consequence of failure and the probability of failure if it occurs. The BP could have allocated enough funds in all the categories although it was obvious there is a low risk of an explosion occurring, its occurrence would have a devastating effect. During the explosion, 11 people died, and 17 others were injured (Nelson & Grubesic, 2018). The health of sea creatures was affected by half, and the economic value of the gulf went down. Probabilistic risk assessment also would help to evaluate the probability of the same event occurring in the future and remedy to counter its occurrence. The health hazards and risk uncertainties such as destruction of sea life, death risks, the economic impact can lead to a reanalysis of this case using probabilistic assessment to avoid future occurrences. Risk assessment has a close association with the observed studies. The failure of the mineral management service to inspect the Macondo project directly resulted in the oil spill. Observed studies help to determine the extent of the risks and develop strategies to counter them in case a risk occurs. When observations are done at the right time and risk assessment done the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico would not have occurred (Nelson & Grubesic, 2018). The ecological value of the spill resulted in devastating damage. The spill resulted in the loss of important biodiversity in the sea. Multiple species such as sea turtles, dolphins, and birds were affected. The species of each particular species declined drastically. The population and communities of species interaction were affected by food webs and food chains. Hydrocarbons such as a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are harmful to animal species. Society had uncertainty and anxiety about whether to visit the place (Nelson & Grubesic, 2018). The interaction between the tourists and the residents was affected since tourists merely visited the area due to worry about their health. The ecological components include seaweed and water. These ecological components relate to each other for a stable ecosystem. Sea animals depend on these ecological components for nutrient cycling, movement, and source of food. If these components interfere with the overall effect is felt by all the creatures. There is no tradeoff between wildlife and development (Fingas, 2016) . This imbalance is a result of human desires to explore all the resources without taking care of the ecosystem. Risk assessment follows five general steps to ensure the assessment is carried out effectively. The first step is hazard identification which needs a person to evaluate the difference between hazard and risk. A person can identify a hazard by walking around the work area or asking the employees. The second step is determining who might be harmed and how. The next step is to evaluate the risk and measures to control the risk. After determining the people who are likely to be exposed, remove the hazard or control the risks to minimize the likelihood of injury (Nelson & Grubesic, 2018). The fourth step is to record your findings and indicate the plans to eliminate risks and hazards. The final step is reviewing your assessment and updating it when necessary. 


Fingas, M. (2016).  Oil spill science and technology . Gulf professional publishing. 

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Nelson, J. R., & Grubesic, T. H. (2018). Oil spill modeling: Risk, spatial vulnerability, and impact assessment.  Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment 42 (1), 112-127. 

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