Ten years after huge US oil spill, fears of offshore drilling persist

Published April 19, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse

On April 20, 2010, the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform claimed the lives of 11 workers and unleashed a torrent of more than four million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling platform is shown in flames in the Gulf of Mexico two days after an explosion killed 11 workers on the rig (US Coast Guard/AFP/File / MANILA BULLETIN)
The Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling platform is shown in flames in the Gulf of Mexico two days after an explosion killed 11 workers on the rig (US Coast Guard/AFP/File / MANILA BULLETIN)

A decade later, the practice of deepwater drilling remains widespread off the lengthy coasts of the United States.

While government oversight was tightened in the wake of the environmental disaster, conservationists say the risks of a new leak could be growing as falling prices may lead to staffing cuts by the big producers.

Today, oil rigs continue drilling off the shores of Alaska and California, but the vast majority (nearly 1,900) are in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coasts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

– 17% of US crude production –

Around 17 percent of the country’s crude oil and five percent of its natural gas comes from this huge maritime zone, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Offshore drilling rigs, their productivity steadily increasing due to technological advances, have long been considered as the most profitable way for the United States to ensure energy independence.

AFP/File / Paul ELLIS
It took BP nearly three months to halt the Deepwater Horizon leak, which fouled beaches, damaged tourism and killed millions of sea creatures
“Deepwater was drilling deeper than almost any well available at the time,” said Phil Flynn, an energy analyst with the Price Futures Group. “It was the equivalent of landing a man on the moon.”

But in recent years deepwater drilling has lost some of its shine as new techniques for hydraulic fracking — injecting liquid deep into the earth to release natural gas at relatively modest cost — have gained ground.

 
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