The Worst Oil Pollution Disaster in US History

Image: Anonymous

The Rig and Deep Water

On April 20, 2010 Deep Water Horizon, a Transocean deep sea drilling rig – working for British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico on the Macondo Prospect, which is located on the Mississippi Canyon Block 252, 48 miles from the coast of Louisiana – caught fire, burned fiercely for 36 hours and then sank in 5,000′ of water. Eleven oil rig workers died and several others were severely injured. The flames from the rig fire were 200-300 feet high and visible from a distance of 35 miles when the fire was its height.

This accident is producing the largest oil slick in American history, perhaps the largest such disaster anywhere in the history of the oil industry. Oil is leaking out at 200,000 gallons per day. The oil slick tripled in size in one day, from a spill the size of Rhode Island to one as big as Puerto Rico, according to images collected from mostly European satellites and analyzed by the University of Miami. The environmental mess could be larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, when an oil tanker spilled 11 million gallons off Alaska’s shores. No effective means for containment for the Deepwater Horizon oil slick has been found as of the date of this article.

Image: Reading and Bates RBS-8M

Deepwater Nautilus – 5th generation deep water, exploratory oil rig

Deepwater Nautilus is very similar in design to Deepwater Horizon. Deepwater Horizon is a fifth generation semi-submersible drilling rig that is designed for harsh environments and effective work to 8,000′, upgradeable to 10,000′ with maximum drill depth of 30,000′ (9144m). It was designed by Reading & Bates Falcon and built in 2001 by Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea. DWH is 396′ (121m) long, 256′ (78m) breadth, 136′ (41m) depth with an operating draft of 76′ (23m). Deepwater Horizon has 130 berths and is designed to operate in storm conditions with 29′ waves and 60 knot winds. It should withstand 41′ waves and winds of 103 knots without incident.