Capping the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon Well

According to EPA, “On April 20, 2010, the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, operating in the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded and sank resulting in the death of 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon and the largest spill of oil in the history of marine oil drilling operations. 4 million barrels of oil flowed from the damaged Macondo well over an 87-day period, before it was finally capped on July 15, 2010. On December 15, 2010, the United States filed a complaint in District Court against BP Exploration & Production and several other defendants alleged to be responsible for the spill.”

Working for the USGS, I got the honor to meet Dr. Paul Hsieh, the scientist who determined that the capped well would hold and not blowout causing significantly more damage. He served on a government task force and one of the biggest issues was obtaining the critical data to determine if capping the well could withstand the pressures. Here are two stories from the Daily Mail and NASA describing his heroic efforts! Luckily his scientific analysis and presentation prevailed over typical risk-adverse government politics.

In 2016, BP paid $20 billion in a global settlement according to the Department of Interior and NOAA is leading the restoration response.