Four students in the Environmental Petroleum Engineering course presented their final class project on the explosion and oil spill that occurred from the massive, mobile oil rig, Deepwater Horizon. Nicholas King, Connor Witman, Jan Vit Suntar, and Jonathan Bruno presented a petroleum engineer's perspective explaining what happened during the catastrophic BP oil spill in 2010. They examined what went wrong, what the environmental impacts were, and what lessons can be learned from this disaster.
The students reported eight things that went wrong causing the oil well to leak for 87 days spilling 205 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The biggest cause being human error when a pressure gauge was misread and the drilling was not stopped. The BP engineers had 50 minutes to respond once the pressure reading was examined to shut down the drilling. The decision to move forward was made by one person and not escalated.
Dr. Qin He, Professor of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering, says, “It’s important for future engineers to learn from past mistakes. We hope our students will be cautious as engineers, and know to speak out if ever confronted with abnormal data alerting the proper channels to prevent future disasters.”
To date, 26 million gallons of oil still lays on the seafloor nearly impossible to clean up. The U.S. Gulf Coast is still feeling the ecological and economic impacts of the spill. Recovery has occurred, but has been slow. Since the spill in 2010, more government regulations have been put in place, and companies are prioritizing safety and environmental issues when drilling.