The British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was one of the worst ecological catastrophes in human history, causing vast damage to a fragile and beautiful ecosystem while at the same time calling attention to the deficits in current approaches to energy prospecting, risk management, and cleanup. This analysis of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill will devote attention to the following questions: (a) What kind of technology is in use for deep-sea oil extraction, what are the factors that accounted for the BP catastrophe, what were the statistical components of the spill in terms of volume and concentration, and what was the spatio-temporal scale of the oil spill? (b) What were the environmental (physical, biological, hydrological, and atmospheric) impacts of the oil spill, in addition to the economic and social impacts? (c) What were the scientific, technological, and policy solutions implemented by various actors to pursue the cleanup of coastal areas, wildlife, and wetlands damaged by the oil spill? (d) What is the feasibility of long-term biodiversity conservation measures and the limits of such solutions?
Overview of the Spill
The BP oil spill began with the explosion of the mobile offshore drilling unit known as the Deepwater Horizon, then operating in the Macondo Prospect Oil Field some 60 kilometers off the coast of the U.S. state of Louisiana, on April 29, 2010. The leak was capped on July 15, 2010, with a repair to the underwater wellhead ruptured by the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Thus, the BP oil spill lasted for about three months. During this time, roughly 5 million barrels of crude oil leaked from the wellhead into the Gulf of Mexico. The flow rate was not uniform, beginning...
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