Deepwater Horizon, Three Years Later – August 6, 2013

The oil slick as imaged on 24 May 2010 by the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Terra Satellite. CREDIT: NASA

The oil slick as imaged on 24 May 2010 by the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Terra Satellite. CREDIT: NASA

BP-funded research aims to understand and mitigate impacts of hydrocarbon pollution in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere.

(From physicstoday / by Rachel Berkowitz) — On 20 April 2010 the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) drilling rig operating in the Mocando Prospect, a drilling block in the Gulf of Mexico, experienced a catastrophic failure that resulted in an explosion and fire, the ultimate sinking of the rig, and a discharge of gas and light sweet crude oil from an ocean depth of 1500 m. Eleven men who were working on the rig at the time of the explosion lost their lives.

A month later, BP committed $500 million over 10 years to fund independent research on the environmental and public health impact of the blowout. On 15 July, a steel cap was installed to plug the bottom of the gushing well; by 19 September the borehole itself was sealed.

To understand the disaster’s consequences, BP initiated the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GOMRI), which includes eight research consortia comprising dozens of universities. GOMRI studies have estimated the rate and volume of petroleum released during the event, the mechanisms by which hydrocarbons move through the Gulf environment, and the impact of oil and gas on ecosystems. Despite GOMRI’s advances in understanding oceanographic effects associated with the spill, many uncertainties remain.

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