Deepwater Horizon – Lessons Learned

Recently, Fran Ulmer, a member of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill gave a lecture at the UW Law School on the nature and impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The spill is the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry and stemmed from the April 20, 2010 explosion of Deepwater Horizon. The explosion killed 11 men working on the platform and injured 17 others. It also resulted in extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and to the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries. Ulmer noted that drilling in the Gulf was taking place for three reasons: we were running out of oil, Congress encouraged it through financial and tax incentives, and there was oil in the deep water. She also emphasized that costs are not only financial but personal and there needs to be an inventory of the explosions’ impact on health insurance, the fishing industry, and the tourist industry.

According to the Commission “what went wrong” is a complex answer that involves issues concerning the processing of the rig, risk assessment, lack of communication, a chaotic management structure, and a questionable safety record. Ulmer drew comparisons to Norway, and their utilization of multiple contractors and subcontractors with varying levels of specification and expertise as an example of to how possibly avoid another such a catastrophe,

Ulmer went on to remark about the future of underwater drilling not only in the Gulf, but the Artic as well. The Gulf still has 45 billion barrels of oil yet to be developed and in the Artic we need to proceed with the utmost care. Ulmer also called for an embrace “best practices” international safety standards. With this in mind the aim of avoiding another disaster and tragedy like the Deepwater Horizon can be realized.

Thank you to Ingrid Aune for helping to provide content for this post

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About H.J. Waukau

1st Year La Follette MIPA student
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