Tag Archives: deepwater horizon oil spill

New oil spill spews 90,000 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico

An offshore of Royal Dutch Shell is responsible for a new oil spill which covered a 13- by 2-mile sheen of oil on the waves.

An oiled brown pelican near Grand Isle, Louisiana after the Deepwater Horizon spill.

It’s sad that a 90,000-gallon spill is considered minor – almost too minor to even report. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which is part of the U.S. Interior Department, said Shell Offshore Inc. reported a crude oil spill from its Brutus platform, about 90 miles south of Timbalier Island, Louisiana. No injuries were reported.

“There are no drilling activities at Brutus, and this is not a well control incident,” the company said. “Shell is determining the exact cause of the release by inspecting the subsea equipment and flowlines in the Glider field. The company has made all appropriate regulatory notifications and mobilized response vessels, including aircraft, in the event the discharge is recoverable. There are no injuries.”

At a global level, oil spills are surprisingly common, with several major ones taking place each year – in some places more often than others. The Gulf of Mexico seems a particularly prone area, with the most notable spill being the Deepwater Horizon Spill, which killed 11 people and spewed out 4.9 million barrels (210,000,000 U.S. gallons; 780,000 cubic meters), being one of the biggest environmental disasters in history.

“The last thing the Gulf of Mexico needs is another oil spill,” Vicky Wyatt, a Greenpeace campaigner, told EcoWatch. “The oil and gas industry’s business-as-usual mentality devastates communities, the environment, and our climate. Make no mistake, the more fossil fuel infrastructure we have, the more spills and leaks we’ll see. This terrible situation must come to an end. President Obama can put these leaks, spills, and climate disasters behind us by stopping new leases in the Gulf and Arctic. It’s past time to keep it in the ground for good.”

Disperstants used by BP for oil spill didn’t do much

When British Petroleum (BP) caused the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in April 2010, the environmental damage reached gargantuan proportions. The oil company used dispersants, but the technique was actually counter productive, just creating the appearance of the oil going away.

Controlled fire of the BP oil spill. Image via Wiki Commons.

After the 172 million gallon (650 million liter) spill, BP applied a chemical dispersant called Corexit 9500 by plane in order to disperse the oil and help natural microbes to eat the oil faster. The oil appeared to dissipate, and that was deemed sufficient by most people, who didn’t monitor the microbes and chemicals, said University of Georgia marine scientist Samantha Joye.

She thought this was not really satisfying, so she recreated the situation in the lab, using the dispersant, BP oil, and water from the gulf. What she found was that the dispersant didn’t help the microbes at all – if anything, it actually hurt them.

“The dispersants did a great job in that they got the oil off the surface,” Joye said. “What you see is the dispersants didn’t ramp up biodegradation.” In fact, she found the oil with no dispersant “degraded a heckuva lot faster than the oil with dispersants,” Joye said.

In order to be as broad as possible with their lab simulations, she and her team studied the response of almost 50,000 species of bacteria in the Gulf, seeing how they reacted to water with oil, and water with oil and dispersant. The trends were similar for all species: dispersants simply didn’t help, they just created the appearance of helping.

Let’s translate this a bit; after the major oil spill, BP used a substance that prevents big puddles of oil forming on the surface of oceans, but doesn’t do anything to prevent it from spreading to sea life; it made the oil sink, basically.

Not only does Corexit not help, it can actually prevent some microbes from eating the oil, and to make it even worse, it’s actually toxic, and tends to bioaccumulate; but wait, it gets even worse. One paper concluded that the oil hazard was 52 times higher for wildlife due to the use of Corexit, because it broke the oil droplets and made them easier to ingest. So what BP did only made it seem like they’re doing a good thing, when in fact, it made things even worse.

Journal Reference: Chemical dispersants can suppress the activity of natural oil-degrading microorganisms.

British Petroleum fined a record $20.8 billion for oil spill

In a monumental decision, British Petroleum (BP) was fined $20.8 billion for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; this upgrades the initial deal from the $18.7 that were previously discussed and represents the largest corporate settlement in US history. This money is additional to the reported $28 billion spent on cleanup and compensation.

The oil spill, as seen by NASA's satellites.

The oil spill, as seen by NASA’s satellites. Image via Wikipedia

“The historic civil penalty also sends a clear message of accountability for those who pollute the U.S. environment,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, the U.S. Coast Guard commandant.

Out of that sum:

  • $8.1 billion for natural resources damage claims, under the Oil Pollution Act. This includes additional money spent on cleaning and monitoring the area
  • $4.9 billion will go to the five Gulf states to compensate for economic damage
  • $1 billion will go to local governments to compensate for economic damage
  • $1.1 B will be managed by the U.S. Coast Guard for response and emergency response efforts
  • $4.4 B will go to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund in the U.S. Treasury Department

The Justice Department settlement includes $700 million saved for natural problems that might appear in the future – it was recently reported that a tar mat appeared in March in the area, and the oil was matched to the one from BP.

Paying a fine this big, you’d expect a company to be ruined (not to mention the image prejudice BP suffers), but it looks like the London giant will just shake it off. Their revenue was US$ 358.7 billion, while their reported profit is $4 billion. Furthermore, this money won’t all be given up front at once, but will be spread out over multiple years, so they have a pretty good chance of just shrugging it off year after year. But let’s not trivialize this – this is a monumental decision, and we should take our victories where we can get them. Will it hurt BP? Yes, obviously. Is the fine high enough? That’s debatable; does it cover the damage it did? Again, debatable, but probably not. But this decision sets a precedent – one that should have been made years before.

A pelican affected by the oil spill. Image via Wikipedia.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster is widely considered to be the worst oil spill in US history; it killed 11 workers, set the entire rig on fire and started a massive spill which took 87 days to stop. The US Government estimated the total discharge at 4.9 million barrels (210 million US gal; 780,000 cubic meters). The spill area hosts 8,332 species and numerous studies have tried to quantify the environmental damage, which was gargantuan.

25,000 Mexican Fisherman Sue BP Over Environmental Disaster

Five years after the British Petroleum catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, Mexican fishermen have still not received any compensation, so they’ve decided to sue the oil giant.

Image via BNet.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on 20 April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people were never found, and this is at the moment considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, with an estimated 4.9 million oil barrels spilled in the ocean.

The company has initially been given a $17.6 billion fine, but that doesn’t include the compensation they have to pay. In particular, thousands of Mexican fishermen found themselves without a job overnight, and they still haven’t received a penny from BP, which is why they’re suing the company. Ironically, US fishermen have received compensation, but not to the Mexicans – which speaks a lot about how the company is dealing with the situation.

To make things even fishier, despite the fact that the US government has sued BP for compensation for the states of Washington, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, conservative Mexican President Felipe Calderon refused to file a lawsuit against BP. Two years later, the Mexican national oil company Pemex signed an agreement to collaborate with the British company, something which sparked outrage across much of the Mexican population.

It’s the first time that BP has been sued by someone outside the US. The disaster caused by the company will haunt us for many years, but the very least they can do is ensure compensation for those who were affected. For a company that makes profits around $2 million an hour, that should be easily feasible.

Here’s a video that takes a look at the damage caused by the disaster:

BP’s fine for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will be lower than expected

A federal judge decided this week that British Petroleum will pay a maximum of $13.7 billion for its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, saying that the oil spill was not as extensive as United States officials claimed. The sum is several billions lower than all parties involved were expecting – except for BP, of course.

An oiled Brown Pelican near Grande Isle, Louisiana. Image via Wiki Commons.

In September 2014, a federal judge has called major oil company BP (British Petroleum) “reckless”, and Transocean and Halliburton “negligent” following the major oil spill of 2010. The US District Judge Carl Barbier has ruled that BP’s “gross negligence” was responsible for the 11 lives which were lost and the 4.9 million barrels (210 million US gal; 780,000 cubic meters). The spill area hosts 8,332 species, and several peer reviewed studies and governmental reports have shown that the environmental damage (both in short and the long run) is inestimable.

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill approaches the coast of Mobile, Ala., May 6, 2010. Image via Wiki Commons.

The legal terms here revolve around negligence: under a “gross negligence” ruling Barbier issued in September, BP could be fined a statutory limit of up to $4,300 for each barrel spilled. However, a simple “negligence” ruling, which BP sought, caps the maximum fine at $1,100 per barrel – about 4 times lower.

Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) observed in emulsified oil on April 29, 2010. Image via Wiki Commons.

The fine might seem huge – and it is, in a way. The maximum sum is $13.7 billion… which goes without saying, is a lot of money. But when you put it into perspective, things change significantly. BP’s annual profit was almost $24 billion in 2013, and shows no reason of dropping from the $20 billion ballpark in the future. So for the 4.9 million barrels of oil which killed countless animals and caused an unprecedented environmental disaster, the company will have to pay about half of its annual profits. Doesn’t seem so much now, does it ?

Even after the Clean Water Act fines are set, BP may face other bills from a lengthy Natural Resources Damage Assessment — which could require BP to carry out or fund environmental restoration work in the Gulf — as well as other claims.

Oil skimming vessels (distance) in the Gulf of Mexico. Image via Wiki Commons.

So far, 810,000 barrels were collected during the clean-up, and even the imperfect cleaning efforts have cost BP more than the fine. As a matter of fact, without the fines, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has cost BP some $42 billion already – not counting the negative publicity.



BP fined $17.6 billion following 2010’s “reckless” oil spill

A federal judge has called major oil company BP (British Petroleum) “reckless”, and Transocean and Halliburton “negligent” following the major oil spill of 2010.

Image: kris krüg/Wikimedia Commons

The US District Judge Carl Barbier has ruled that BP’s “gross negligence” was the main culprit for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which is considered to be the biggest marine disaster in history. The spill claimed 11 lives, resulting in a total discharge estimated at 4.9 million barrels (210 million US gal; 780,000 cubic meters). BP declared the leak closed, but some reports indicate that it is still seeping. The spill area hosts 8,332 species, and several peer reviewed studies and governmental reports have shown that the environmental damage (both in short and the long run) is inestimable.

In 2012, BP accepted criminal responsibility for the spill, and were ordered to pay $4.5 billion, aside for the fine they’ve been ordered to pay now. Judge Barbier said:

 “BP’s conduct was reckless. Transocean’s conduct was negligent. Halliburton’s conduct was negligent.”

All the companies involved have to pay fines – the culpability was divided as follows: 67 percent for BP, 30 percent for Transocean, which is one of the world’s largest offshore drilling contractors, and 3 percent for Halliburton, one of the world’s largest oil field services companies.

“This means that BP will finally be forced to pay what it owes to fix what it broke,” Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold told Cronin. “Is is a long-awaited step toward healing and recovery for the Gulf Coast, its birds and its people. BP said it was above the law; Judge Barbier said the law applies to everyone, even multinational giants.”

BP plans to appeal the decision, claiming that the decision “not supported by the evidence at trial”. The fine puts the company’s future in jeopardy – which is something that over $20 billion in fines should do. But then again – let’s put things into perspective – BP made (in profits) US$ 23.758 billion in 2013 alone – so all this huge fine does is strip the company of a yearly profit.