Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Case Study
Department of Communications
The University of West Alabama
IMC 580: Portfolio Design
Professor Greg Jones
5 May 2022
On 20 Apr. 2010 at 9:45 pm local time, 41 miles off the Louisiana coast, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded. Eleven workers were killed, and 17 workers were treated for injuries from this tragic event. For the next three months, over 210 million gallons of oil would plague the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida while also wreaking havoc on marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.
From the beginning, BP was not equipped to handle this situation, nor do I think they wanted to. They were not consistent when dealing with the media, they looked to the government to fix the problem, and they also tried to get residents who were impacted by the spill to sign waivers to avoid paying for the damages. The then CEO Tony Hayward was even quoted saying, “I’m sorry. We’re sorry for the massive disruption it’s caused their lives. There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back”. Never mind those millions of gallons of oil were seeping into the ocean, we also saw a company that lacked empathy toward the victims of the explosion.
Course of Action
BP tried numerous times to fix the leaking well but failed repeatedly. They began to use a chemical dispersant called Corexit, which was sprayed onto the oil, breaking it down into droplets and sending it deep underwater. The dispersant managed the oil spill just enough so that it wouldn’t reach the shoreline, thus giving the illusion that the spill was smaller than the media was reporting. Finally, on 15 Jul. 2010, the leaking well was plugged, but the damage had already been done.
Consequences and Moral of the Story
Not only was this chemical dispersant harmful to marine life, but it also started to cause serious health problems in cleanup crews and residents living off the shorelines. The solution BP had hoped would solve the problem ended up causing more trouble for the company. BP has had to pay over $40 billion in cleanup costs, fines, and settlements. On top of that, they have had to pay $16 billion toward the Clean Water Act.
Had BP had a crisis plan ready for a situation like this, like they were supposed to, maybe they would’ve done better in public opinion. Court rulings and federal investigators uncovered a series of safety failures when conducting research. BP officials failed to give cleanup crews the safety manual on Corexit (which presented the dangers of being close to the dispersant). They also reportedly threatened to fire workers who complained about the lack of safety gear.
BP will forever be known for one of the largest and worst environmental disasters in American history. The company seemed far removed from the reality of the situation they caused. Had the company simply owned up to the oil spill, the public might have been more forgiving, but the few times BP did discuss the problem, they seemed uninterested and lacking any empathy toward those affected. For a company with a plethora of resources, BP exhibited inexcusable behaviors, and to this day, I refuse to get gas from a BP station because of how they reacted.
- “BP CEO Tony Hayward (VIDEO): ‘I’d Like My Life Back.’” HuffPost, Part of HuffPost Environment. ©2021 Verizon Media. All rights reserved., 1 Jun. 2010, www.huffpost.com/entry/bp-ceo-tony-hayward-video_n_595906.
- Hertsgaard, Mark. “The Worst Part about BP’s Oil-Spill Cover-up: It Worked.” Grist, © 1999-2021 Grist Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved. Grist is powered by WordPress.com VIP., 23 Apr. 2013, grist.org/business-technology/what-bp-doesnt-want-you-to-know-about-the-2010-gulf-of-mexico-spill.
- The Center for Biological Diversity. “Dispersants.” Center for Biological Diversity, The Center for Biological Diversity is a 501(c)(3) registered charitable organization. Tax ID: 27-3943866., www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/public_lands/energy/dirty_energy_development/oil_and_gas/gulf_oil_spill/dispersants.html. Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.