The Role of Business and Engineering Decisions in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill


  • Mark Alexander Reynolds Memorial University of Newfoundland




On April 20th, 2010, the semi-submersible oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 crew members and allowing crude oil to spill continuously from the seabed. Despite numerous attempts to cap the leak, oil continued to flow into the Gulf for nearly three months before a solution was found and the well was finally capped. Because deep water drilling is a relatively new phenomenon, the technical challenges involved in capping a wellhead beneath more than 1,500 metres of water were new and unexplored. Neither the United States government, nor BP, nor their subcontractors Halliburton and Transocean were prepared to deal with the fallout of a disaster of this magnitude. After an investigation by the United States government, it was determined that BP and its partners were primarily responsible for the spill due to a series of cost-cutting measures. It was also discovered that BP made decisions that demonstrated a lack of business integrity, including hiding information from the public and the US government. The following report will outline the circumstances that led to the explosion of Deepwater Horizon and describe the role of business and engineering decisions in allowing the spill. The report will then discuss changes that can be made to prevent reoccurrence of another disaster of this magnitude.


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Coastal and Ocean Engineering (ENGI.8751)