What Caused the Deepwater Horizon Accident?
You may have stumbled across the trailer of a movie titled Deepwater Horizon, starring Mark Wahlberg. The trailer begins with a child who describes her father’s job working on an oil rig that later undergoes a terrible disaster. Then, the text “Based on a true story” appears. Deepwater Horizon is based on the true events that caused the worst oil spill in United States history that devastated the environment, killed 11 people and injured dozens more.
Around 9:45 p.m. on the evening of April 20, 2010, highly pressured methane gas from the Macondo well spread into the drilling riser and crept into the drilling rig itself. There, the methane gas ignited and caused a massive explosion that engulfed the entire platform. There were 126 people onboard the Deepwater Horizon when the explosion occurred. The explosion hurled shrapnel, flung crewmembers across the rooms and many were caught in the blaze. Survivors of the initial explosion were left dazed, dripping in highly flammable gas and crawling through the pitch-black night to get to lifeboats. However, the firestorm ultimately baked the lifeboat deck. Many crewmembers were forced to jump into the ocean, now filled with black oil, for fear they would be cooked alive if they remained on board.
BP’s Gross Negligence Caused the Deepwater Horizon Accident
The Deepwater Horizon was a semi-submersible, 9-year-old oil rig capable of operating in waters as deep as 10,000 feet. The rig was owned by Transocean and chartered to BP in 2008. The Deep Horizon was drilling 18,360 feet below sea level at the Macondo well just off the Louisiana coast. However, the 400-foot rig should have been able to withstand the blowout. Yet, it didn’t because every single one of the oil rig’s fortifications in place to prevent this type of disaster failed.
It was later discovered that though the oil rig crew was properly trained if a terrible hurricane hit, the crew lacked training for a blowout of this magnitude that caused fires and shut down the power. Transocean designed a complex line of defense for the oil rig. One emergency system was controlled by more than 30 different switches. The safety handbook provided by Transocean was also vague on what constituted an emergent situation to use these defenses.
Over the course of the drilling, BP allegedly put pressure on the oil rig crew to meet deadlines and cut safety corners. BP pushed for a “negative pressure test,” which was supposed to test whether the well was leaking. BP pushed for this risky test to be performed twice, which prompted the well to blow, kind of like gently poking a balloon with a needle.
Later, investigators from the U.S. chemical safety board found the blowout preventer had faulty wiring in several places. The hulking device also had a bent pipe and a dead battery. This caused some of the defenses to activate, but fail to work. Some of the defenses deployed, but only after the fact. Others simply did not activate at all.
BP Should Have Been Held Criminally Responsible for the Deepwater Horizon Accident
The disaster is often referred to as the “BP oil spill.” BP, the major oil and gas company responsible for the oil rig and its operations, was found to have been guilty of recklessness and gross negligence regarding the horrible accident. Had BP and several other companies not consciously disregarded the known risks, the lives of 11 workers would not have been lost and the accident could have been avoided.