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Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Oil spill that began in April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (also referred to as the "BP oil spill") was an industrial disaster that began on 20 April 2010 off of the coast of the United States in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect,[6][7][8][9] considered to be the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry and estimated to be 8 to 31 percent larger in volume than the previous largest, the Ixtoc I oil spill, also in the Gulf of Mexico. The United States federal government estimated the total discharge at 4.9 MMbbl (210,000,000 US gal; 780,000 m3).[3] After several failed efforts to contain the flow, the well was declared sealed on 19 September 2010.[10] Reports in early 2012 indicated that the well site was still leaking.[11][12] The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is regarded as one of the largest environmental disasters in world history.

Quick facts: Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Location, Coordi...
Deepwater Horizon oil spill
The oil seen from space by NASA's Terra satellite on 24 May 2010
LocationMacondo Prospect (Mississippi Canyon Block 252), in the North-central Gulf of Mexico, United States (south of Louisiana)
Coordinates28°44′17″N 88°21′58″W[1]
Date20 April – 19 September 2010
(4 months, 4 weeks and 2 days)
CauseWellhead blowout
Casualties11 people killed
17 people injured
OperatorTransocean under contract for BP[2]
Spill characteristics
Volume4.9 MMbbl (210,000,000 U.S. gal; 780,000 m3) ±10%[3]
Area2,500 to 68,000 sq mi (6,500 to 176,100 km2)[4]
Quick facts: External video...
External video
video icon Frontline: The Spill (54:25), Frontline on PBS[5]

A massive response ensued to protect beaches, wetlands and estuaries from the spreading oil utilizing skimmer ships, floating booms, controlled burns and 1,840,000 US gal (7,000 m3) of oil dispersant.[13] Due to the months-long spill, along with adverse effects from the response and cleanup activities, extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and fishing and tourism industries was reported.[14] In Louisiana, 4,900,000 lb (2,200 t) of oily material was removed from the beaches in 2013, over double the amount collected in 2012. Oil cleanup crews worked four days a week on 55 mi (89 km) of Louisiana shoreline throughout 2013.[15] Oil continued to be found as far from the Macondo site as the waters off the Florida Panhandle and Tampa Bay, where scientists said the oil and dispersant mixture is embedded in the sand.[16] In April 2013, it was reported that dolphins and other marine life continued to die in record numbers with infant dolphins dying at six times the normal rate.[17] One study released in 2014 reported that tuna and amberjack that were exposed to oil from the spill developed deformities of the heart and other organs that would be expected to be fatal or at least life-shortening and another study found that cardiotoxicity might have been widespread in animal life exposed to the spill.[18][19]

Numerous investigations explored the causes of the explosion and record-setting spill. The United States Government report, published in September 2011, pointed to defective cement on the well, faulting mostly BP, but also rig operator Transocean and contractor Halliburton.[20][21] Earlier in 2011, a White House commission likewise blamed BP and its partners for a series of cost cutting decisions and an inadequate safety system, but also concluded that the spill resulted from "systemic" root causes and "absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur".[22]

In November 2012, BP and the United States Department of Justice settled federal criminal charges, with BP pleading guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter, two misdemeanors, and a felony count of lying to the United States Congress. BP also agreed to four years of government monitoring of its safety practices and ethics, and the Environmental Protection Agency announced that BP would be temporarily banned from new contracts with the United States government. BP and the Department of Justice agreed to a record-setting $4.525 billion in fines and other payments.[23][24][25] As of 2018, cleanup costs, charges and penalties had cost the company more than $65 billion.[26][27]

In September 2014, a United States District Court judge ruled that BP was primarily responsible for the oil spill because of its gross negligence and reckless conduct.[28] In April 2016, BP agreed to pay $20.8 billion in fines, the largest environmental damage settlement in United States history.[29]