The BP Gulf of Mexico spill occurred in 2010 due to the destruction of a Deepwater Horizon drilling rig by a blast that saw the oil released into the gulf. The oil spill, one of the worst in history, brought about environmental and economic harm to then vibrant Gulf fishing and tourism business and industry due to enhanced consumer apprehension and massive closure of fisheries. The oil released was controlled in July 2010 after 87 days of gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven fatalities and much destruction of marine life were reported. Statistics indicate that over 4 million barrels were lost in the discharge. It was in September 2010 that the Gulf of Mexico well was declared sealed after a number of efforts were mooted and amounted to futility on implementation. Reliable reports from as early as 2012 pointed out that there was still leaking in the well site. After the spill, an extensive response was formulated to protect beaches, estuaries and wetlands. Using oil crew clean up teams, controlled burns, floating booms, skimmer ships and oil dispersants, BP mounted an effective clean up exercise. Griggs (2011) notes that damage to wild and marine life, and tourism and fishing industries was experienced due to the fact that the oil spill ensued for a number of months.
Most of the impact of the BP Gulf of Mexico spill was on the marine life. More than seven National Parks in the United States were affected and a slightly over 300 species found in various marine habitats were at risk. The species ranged from birds, cetaceans (whales and dolphins), mollusks, sea turtles to crustaceans. Notably some of the measures taken by BP in the cleanup were also linked to the threatening of marine life. The oil-consuming microbes introduced in the affected water bodies were linked by scientists to reduction of oxygen levels in the water (Adekoya, 2014). The ecosystem to date has not recovered and may take more time as compared to other previous spills. The spill had profound economic impact on many fronts. The tourism industry, for instance, suffered most with massive cancellations of vacations noted in many resorts and hotels within the coastal horizons of Mississippi,Louisiana and Alabama. The real estate prices plummeted in the Gulf of Mexico region. This saw many officials from the area requesting for the rebasing of the property tax to match the prevailing market value then. Failure to this, financial managers pointed out losses would cripple many county real estate players.The fishing industry had to contend with the closure of many fisheries and fishing zones around the Gulf of Mexico area. Though much of the fishing points were declared safe as from November 2010, the fishing revenues are yet to reach the levels enjoyed before the spill. Much of the fish emanating in the gulf area is still faced with consumer skepticism making the full recovery of the industry a rather dragging affair.
The Oil Pollution Act or OPA was established in 1990 after the famous Exxon-Valdez oil spill. The bill acted as a safeguard measure for future spills by stipulating steps to ensure minimization civil liability and damage that may arise in future oil spills(Adekoya, 2014). The act demands that companies incorporate spill prevention measures or detailed clean up and containment strategies for any spills that may occur in future. The act posited a number of provisions that were to guide in its oversight and implementation:
Agency role in spill cleanup efforts coordination: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was tasked with on-shore strategies while the Coast Guard was identified as the chief coordinator of offshore efforts.
Better, elaborate and coordinated preparedness for future oil spill control and prevention through careful planning.
Liability: The oil companies or other entities will be liable for all the costs that may arise from the clean-up processes. Athird party will also be deemed liable, if duly proven, for the clean-up costs.
Liability Limit: The responsible party may be charged approximately, in liability, $350 million. However, this limit may be adjusted subject to the magnitude of the spill and governments standpoint.
The ban of single hull tankers that may supersede 500 tons in capacity.
The prohibition of any vessel that has a history of oil spill greater than a million gallons in any marine zone from operation in Prince William Sound.
The OPA has been effective in the overseeing of management and containment of major spills. The BP Gulf of Mexico spill, for instance, so BP take much of the liability in the clean-up efforts. The company was forced to reimburse the federal government over $850 million used in various cleanup activities. Designated as the Responsible Party as per the OPA regulations, BP was given the mandate to coordinate all efforts pertaining to the spill. It coordinated the local and federal officials throughout the whole exercise. The BP through its liability mandate continues to fund the State of Louisiana to execute regular testing of shellfish, fish, sand and water.
It took long to contain the spill because it stretched many miles under water. Research points that the subsurface oil was roughly 75% of the oil spilled (Adekoya, 2014). The company further did not have adequate setout measures to counter such a spill. This saw much of their efforts redundant as they were mainly founded on trial and error. They tried out, for instance, Blowout Preventer valves, which failed though they were a proven success in shallow waters in previous scenarios. Despite containing the leakage temporarily, there was recurrent spills, which derailed the containment process hence derailing it once more. The deep sea was also a very intricate working environment that hindered speedy and effective fixing. The inaccurate estimations of the spill was another reason why BP failed to stop the spill. The government estimated the spill to be about 62,000 barrels on a daily basis while BP posited the spill to be roughly 5,000 barrels per day (Griggs, 2011). These inconsistencies affected the management of the spill in good time.
The feed foward control strategy would have been appropriate in averting the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This ideally entails incorporating preventive mechanisms in countering probable undesirable events. According to Griggs (2011), reliable reports from the White House indicate that the spill would have been avoided had site staff revealed the negative results of the critical negative pressure test to the BP engineers. If further tests as required by the feed foward strategies had been implemented the spill would have been avoided in totality.
Adekoya, C. (2014). BP Oil Spill. Documenting the Crisis in US Gulf Coast. Munchen, Germany: GRIN Verlag.
Griggs, J. (2011). BP GULF OF MEXICO OIL SPILL. Energy Law Journal, 32(1), 57-79.
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