The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. Ghada Al Maadeed 9D
Introduction The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been described as the worst environmental disaster in US history. On the 20th April, the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up killing eleven workers. The subsequent oil spill affected hundreds of miles of Gulf coastline, causing serious economic damage to the region, both in terms of tourism and fishing. The oil spill flowed continuously for three months! It is till nowadays; the largest accidental marine oil spills in the history of the petroleum industry! Its impact still continues even after the well was capped. Its effect is still a problem till these days despite efforts to stem the leak and contain the oil on the surface, the slick has spread, threatening wildlife and closing down thousands of sq miles to fishing.
Problem The spill stemmed from a sea-floor oil gusher called The Deepwater Horizon that exploded in April 20, 2010 when methane gas from the well, under high pressure, shot all the way up and out of the drill column , expanded onto the platform, and then ignited and exploded. Efforts by multiple ships to stop the flames were unsuccessful. After burning for approximately 36 hours, the Deepwater Horizon sank on the morning of April 22, 2010.The oil flowed continuously for three months till July 15 when the leak got stopped by capping the gushing wellhead, after it had released about 4.9 million barrels crude oil before it was capped!
Effects of the problem There are social, economic and environmental consequences of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It has a great impact on tourism, fisheries, wildlife and the health risks to those involved in the clean up operation. The disaster has caused massive environmental damage for hundreds of miles along the US coast. It caused massive damage to marine and wildlife habitats as well as to the Gulf's fishing and tourism industries. A huge area of the Gulf was closed to shrimping after tar balls were found in shrimpers' nets and fishing boats. Scientists have also reported immense underwater plumes of dissolved oil that were not visible at the surface, as well as an 80-square-mile "kill zone" surrounding the blown BP well where everything looked dead on the seafloor. Even the birds around there suffered. The oil penetrated into the structure of their bodies, reducing its insulating ability, thus making the birds more vulnerable to temperature fluctuations and much less buoyant in the water.
It also impaired their flight abilities to escape from predators. When oil covered their feathers, it caused kidney damage, altered liver function, and digestive tract irritation. In addition to all that, the spill is still causing big pollution problems like polluting the air and people not being able to go on the beaches.
Solutions Oil giant BP has acknowledged its absolute responsibility for cleaning up a huge oil spill after the explosion of its well. Emergency teams are using several methods in attempts to deal with the huge spreading oil at the surface, which has created a slick covering about 2,000 square miles. More than 275 vessels, including, skimmer ships, tugs, recovery vessels, floating containment booms, anchored barriers, sand-filled barricades along shorelines, and dispersants were used in an attempt to protect hundreds of miles of beaches and wetlands. A giant concrete-and-steel funnel has been placed over a blown-out oil well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico so that the oil leak can be contained
Also, another company was contracted to drill the well and dispersant chemicals were used down at the leak site as well as on the surface to deal with that problem. These chemicals, rather like soap, are being sprayed from ships and aircraft in an effort to help break down the oil. Another method used to tackle oil spills is burning - although it can be tricky to carry out and has associated environmental risks such as toxic smoke. Both industry and government have also taken numerous steps to improve safety since the incident. Also, the federal government swiftly imposed new regulations on the offshore drilling industry after the spill.
In addition to these steps, an internal affairs unit to expose improper relationships between companies and regulators was established. It has vowed to improve inspections and has issued new rules for new drilling proposals that have to undergo more thorough environmental reviews to meet new safety standards that apply to all deep-water operations. Thus, a massive operation is under way in and around the Gulf of Mexico to halt the leak from a blown-out oil well, prevent the spread of the slick and clean its mess. All that clean up business had cost enormous amounts of money. Economically the financial scale of the disaster was revealed, with the US Government asking for at least $20 billion compensation from BP. This led to a dramatic drop in the share price of the company.
Thankfully, British Petroleum (BP) has finally capped the leaking well that has expelled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. According to the BBC, a pressure test showed a cement plug put in place by BP to permanently "kill" the well was holding. Hopefully, this environmental disaster will be completely solved soon and life can go back to normal there. Oil is essential for modern life and it is the basis for petrochemicals industry.
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