Montclair State University
The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in 2010 posed great economic risks to the Gulf of Mexico and raised questions as to how this event could possibly happen. This essay reviews the Deepwater Horizon’s building and purpose, two key findings in the investigation, and the evidence provided in the Section 4 Overview of the Deepwater Horizon Accident Analyses conducted by BP. Then, this essay discusses what happens when technology fails and who’s to blame.
In today’s fast paced world, there’s no doubt that as technology progresses, changes and advancements are made in fields like medicine and construction. But what happens when technology fails and causes a catastrophic event that injures and kills people and harms the environment? This was the case with the Deepwater Horizon that was built in 2001 and was a “dynamically-positioned semi-submersible drilling unit” (Deepwater Horizon Accident Investigation Report 2010). In the nine years it was possessed and operated by Transocean who had a contract with BP in the Gulf of Mexico. Deepwater Horizon was a mechanical drilling system and a “15,000 psi-rated BOP system” which had operated in “depths greater than 9,000 ft.” (Deepwater Horizon Accident Investigation Report 2010). The Deepwater Horizon rig was “396 ft. long and 256 ft. wide” (Encyclopedia of Earth 2010). The Deepwater Horizon was built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea and leased to BP until September 2013 (Encyclopedia of Earth 2010). On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon lost control of an experimental well and suffered a catastrophic disaster. When the explosion occurred, the oil rig was located on BP’s Mississippi Canyon Block 252 which was also known as Macondo Prospect (Deepwater Horizon Accident Investigation Report 2010). Immediately following the disaster, the U.S. Coast Guard sent search and rescue teams to the site. The next morning, as the fire was still strong and eleven rig workers continued to be missing, a senior executive at BP contacted the White House to inform them of this incident. Two days later on April 22, 2010, the drilling rig collapsed and sank almost a mile to the ocean floor which resulted in an oil spill that continued for just about three months. This oil spill not only killed 11 men (News Inferno 2014), but also contaminated the oceans and its’ sea life. According to a report conducted by Dow Jones Newswires, the staff concluded that there were management failures at BP as well as Halliburton Co., and Transocean Ltd. Halliburton was BP’s contractors who completed cement work on the well and Transocean was the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Although a lot of the blame was place on BP, the staff at Panela discovered that BP was only responsible for six of the 11 decisions that caused the rig to spill. According to Richard Sears, the commission’s senior science advisor, “Many decisions taken on the rig, one at a time, turned out to add to the risk of the operation” (News Inferno 2014). According to the Dow Jones staff, the oil company “did not have policies and systems in place” to “ensure that decisions made to reduce costs and improve efficiency do not increase risks or diminish safety”. Dow Jones also reported that “BP, Transocean, and Halliburton failed to communicate adequately”. BP “did not share important information with its contractors, or sometimes even within its own team,” and “contractors did not share important information with BP or with each other” (News Inferno 2014). When technology fails, it’s important to look not only at the technology itself but at the people in charge of running that technology. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon, several specific wrongdoings were found to be a part of the explanation of the cause of the disaster. Upon examination, the investigation team