Deepwater Horizon oil well finally dead, authorities say

Monday, September 20, 2010

A worker cleans up oily waste on the coast of an island in the Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds of workers are cleaning up oil from the damaged Deepwater Horizon wellhead that reached the shore a month after the ultra-deepwater oil rig exploded, killing 11 people.

The Deepwater Horizon is dead. Almost five months after an explosion rocked an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana and caused a natural disaster on a scale not seen before, BP yesterday announced that that the well has been completely shut off. Thad W. Allen, the former Coast Guard admiral who is heading up the response to the oil spill on behalf of the U.S. government said in a statement that the well now "poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico." He also released a U.S. goverment department's confirmation of the news. "The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has confirmed that the cementing operation on the Macondo well was successful, that the well has been permanently sealed with cement plugs, and that pressure tests verify the integrity of the plugs," it read. BP released a statement, describing the sealing of the well as "a significant technological accomplishment and another important milestone in our continued efforts to restore the Gulf Coast."

Early on Sunday morning, those aboard Development Driller III drill rig, which aided in the shutting down of the well, successfully conducted a pressure test, and concluded that cement pumped through a relief well into the Macondo well was going to hold. The tests concluded that the cement finally put an end to an environmental disaster that has affected BP, the wildlife on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and the hundreds of people who make their living by fishing in the area. Forrest Travirca, who lives in Louisiana, said he was very angry with the response by BP and the authorities. "All the brown spots and patches you'll see on this beach for the next nine miles is oil, too... And if you dig down a few inches or a few feet, you'll see oil, too. And if you walk into that marsh back there, you'll find oil," he said. "So don't tell me we dodged any bullets. Or that it wasn't so bad. 'Cause I've been out there every day since May dealing with all that oil we dodged. It just makes my blood boil."

Admiral Allen admitted that the disaster was far from over. "Although the well is now dead, we remain committed to continue aggressive efforts to clean up any additional oil we may see going forward," he said, adding that the response, lead by his team and BP "has been driven by the best science and engineering available. We insisted that BP develop robust redundancy measures to ensure that each step was part of a deliberate plan, driven by science, minimizing risk to ensure we did not inflict additional harm in our efforts to kill the well. I commend the response personnel, both from the government and private sectors, for seeing this vital procedure through to the end."

The spill began in April, when Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing eleven people, after the blowout preventer failed. Oil began to leak into the Gulf, soon developing into the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. 4.9 million barrels of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, causing damage to marine and wildlife habitats as well as the Gulf's fishing and tourism industries. Extensive measures were used to prevent the oil from reaching the coastline of Louisiana, including skimmer ships, floating containment booms, anchored barriers, and sand-filled barricades. Scientists have also reported immense underwater plumes of dissolved oil not visible at the surface. The U.S. Government has named BP as the responsible party, and officials have committed to holding the company accountable for all cleanup costs and other damage.

BP released their internal review into the spill last week, but it was rebuffed by the head of Greenpeace's energy campaign, Jim Footner, who said that it was "highly likely that a truly independent report would be even more damning for BP." However, he said, "the real problem is our addiction to oil, which is pushing companies like BP to put lives and the environment at risk. The age of oil is coming to an end and companies like BP will be left behind unless they begin to adapt now. The time has come to move beyond oil and invest in clean energy." The report concludes by stating that decisions made by "multiple companies and work teams" contributed to the accident which it says arose from "a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces." In their statement, BP said that they "will continue sharing what we have learned in an effort to prevent a tragedy like this from ever being repeated. We also believe that the industry will gain important insights on how to be better prepared to respond to any future incidents."