Looking Back At The Gulf Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Three Years Ago Today
April 20, 2013

Looking Back At The Gulf Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Three Years Ago Today

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

It has been three years since we caught word an explosion took place on an oil rig off the Gulf coast, kickstarting the worst offshore oil spill in US history.

Not only did 11 workers lose their lives on the rig, but we also saw about 4.9 million barrels, or 206 million gallons, of oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico. Although today marks the three-year anniversary of the spill, no one knew at that time the spill would go on for so long, not being plugged up until over five months later.

University of California, Berkley engineer Bob Bea recently recounted the day he found out about the oil spill on Wednesday with a roomful of academics, professional engineers and students.

Bea authored a report for BP, along with Karlene Roberts, professor emeritus at UC Berkeley´s Haas School of Business, pointing out the challenges within the oil company. He is now an expert witness in the ongoing federal trial to determine the level of liability of BP, Transocean and Haliburton in the oil spill.

Bea is an internationally recognized veteran of disaster investigations. He has taken part in understanding other major oil spills as well, including the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill.

“There is one common thread to these disasters,” Bea said. “They are system disasters. They´re caused by human and organizational malfunctions.”

He said what went wrong three years ago was BP's zero-tolerance approach to help ensure safe drilling was only in place at one of seven drilling rigs operated by the company in the Gulf of Mexico. The others in place were leased by other companies, so they did not follow the Operating Management System BP had in place for the one rig it owned.

Bea said BP determined they couldn't spend the time and money and effort on implementing these safety systems at these sites, so instead, "they would rely on the contractors to take care of those safety things." He added BP worked under the ideology that every dollar counts, emphasizing reduced costs and increased production.

At the time of the blowout, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was over budget by $60 million and more than 60 days behind schedule.

With all the mess still taking place in the courtroom, BP is at least shelling out some cash to help clean up some the financial mess left behind by the oil spill. ClaimsComp said in March "money is flowing in for businesses and nonprofit organizations" that were affected by the spill. BP was ordered by the United States District Court to pay $7.8 billion to settle valid claims last May.

“People have no idea they have a valid claim,” said John Pawlak, CEO of Alpharetta, GA-based ClaimsComp, a claims recovery service company. “And there are billions of dollars just waiting to be claimed.”

He said as of February this year, the average economic loss claim "offers and payments" was $233,459. The average individual economic loss claim was $10,219. ClaimsCorp has helped more than 180,000 people over the past 15 years recover more than $240 million in class action claims from BP.

By the second anniversary of the oil spill, studies have shed a little light as to how the spill has impacted the environment, but only time will tell what the long-term affects from the Deepwater Horizon accident will actually be.