Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

On April 20, 2010, the lives of residents of the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico changed. An ultra-deep water, offshore oil-drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean and leased to British Petroleum (BP), experienced an uncontrollable blowout, causing a fiery explosion that killed 11 crewmen. The fire could not be extinguished, and two days later, on April 22, the rig sank 5,000 feet and came to rest a quarter mile from the gushing wellhead on the seabed 41 miles off the southeastern Louisiana coast. The largest oil spill in U. S. waters ensued, with a total estimated discharge of 4.9 million barrels (or 210 million gallons) over 87 days and through repeated attempts to stop it. On July 15, 2010, a chamber of larger diameter than the flowing pipe was bolted to the top, and valves were manually closed. On September 16, a relief well reached its destination, pumping of cement to seal the well began, and National Incident Commander Thad Allen declared the well “effectively dead” and posing no further threat to the Gulf.

Fundamental strategies for addressing the spill were containment, dispersal, and removal, involving approximately 47,000 people and 7,000 vessels throughout the late spring and summer of 2010. Over 2,450 miles of containment and sorbent booms were deployed to corral oil or protect marshes, mangroves, or other ecologically-sensitive areas, but booms were criticized for washing up on vulnerable shorelines, allowing oil to escape above or below the boom, and for ineffectiveness in rough conditions.

The volume and methods of application of Corexit oil dispersant remain a controversial topic. A total of 1.84 million gallons of dispersant were applied, with 771,000 gallons released directly at the wellhead and the rest sprayed from aircraft during 400 sorties. Concerns stemmed from several analyses demonstrating health risks associated with Corexit. Also, underwater dispersant injection may have created oil plumes that never reached the surface, and experts were concerned about the slow pace at which oil breaks down in cold water at great depths. Concerns were expressed that the dispersants contributed to the toxicity of the spill, and currents circulated this hazardous mixture throughout the Gulf.

Removal techniques included combustion, offshore filtration, and collection for later processing. An estimated 5% of leaked oil was burned at the surface, and 3% was skimmed. Shoreline cleanup became the main task of responders following the July 15 capping. In Alabama, sandy beaches of Baldwin County and Mobile County’s Dauphin Island were sifted, tar balls were removed, and tar mats were dug manually or with excavators. In Louisiana, vacuum and pumping, low-pressure flushing, vegetation cutting, and bioremediation were used to treat oil-impacted marshes and wetlands. Mobile and Baldwin county impacts were more social and economic, rather than environmental, devastating the tourism and recreational fishing economies and the tax base used to fund schools and services.

This page contains a variety of informative links and reports detailing what MBNEP and our partners are doing to improve and protect water quality, living resources, habitats, and human uses in response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.


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Full list of projects, with links to more specific information

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Transocean Plea Agreement

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The RESTORE Act and Additional Information


A Guide to the RESTORE Act By Jyotika I. Virmani

The RESTORE Act Flow Chart and Bill Comparison

NRDA Related Links and Reports

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Draft Phase I Early Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force

Gulf of Mexico Regional Ecosystem Restoration Strategy

EPA Links and Reports

Coastal Recovery Commision Links and Reports

Other Great Links and Reports