The 24th September issue of the Wessex Scene featured an article in the Science and Environment section entitled ‘BP oil spill: Negligence or a colossal mistake?’ As students studying geology we wish to present some criticisms of the assertions made, and attempt to give further explanation to the industry’s (and therefore BP’s) efforts to contain the oil spill.
The BP oil spill is undoubtedly an environmental and ecological disaster of unprecedented proportions, and British Petroleum must accept some portion of the blame for their errors. To assume that because the company was the leaseholder at the time of the explosion makes them culpable for the entirety of the disaster is to be, in our opinion, unfair in bringing all guilty parties to light. For example, without seeing the lease agreement between Transocean and BP we cannot know how much of Deepwater Horizon’s maintenance was to be done by either party, or if it was to be farmed out to a third-party company.
Further to this, in the BP oil spill article one question posed is who thought that ‘shooting rubbish and golf balls into the pipeline would ever stop the leak’. This was not the case, although it may have been advertised as such by the mainstream media. The ‘Junk Shot’ strategy involves drilling mud and debris and is a well-known, often successful, strategy in stopping leaking oil and gas wells within the oil business. On this occasion it appears that the mainstream news coverage was taken at face value without looking into the remedial efforts at a more technical level.
An, in our opinion, it was incorrect to say that there were no contingency plans in place should a leak occur at the rig. This is wrong for the simple reason that there were contingencies in place. These include the blow-out preventer which failed after the explosion on the rig, along with the industry-standard methods such as those nicknamed the ‘Junk Shot’, ‘Top Kill’ and ‘Bottom Kill’.
The problems encountered in the course of stopping the spill were exacerbated by the fact that Deepwater Horizon is the deepest well blow-out ever encountered, the well concerned being 5,600 metres below sea level: a depth at which no spill resolution measures have ever been tested, let alone undertaken.
This is, of course, not to disregard the fact that the incident in question was the biggest oil spill in history, and the effects are being and will be felt for years to come. We feel that the original article did not offer a representative assessment of the facts of the case, and have written this rebuttal in response.