On April 20, 2010 an explosion and fire racked the Deepwater Horizon, a semi-submersible drilling unit operating in the Gulf of Mexico, in Mississippi Canyon Block 252. 126 crew were aboard. 11 remained missing after rescue efforts by the Coast Guard and Navy. The remaining 115 crew members were successfully evacuated. Firefighting efforts continued from vessels alongside the rig.
The rig was owned by Transocean, Ltd. and being leased to BP Exploration & Production, Inc. There may have been a number of employees of other contractors aboard at the time of the explosion.
The rig sank on April 22 about 1,500 feet from the wellhead and a small oil slick appeared in the vicinity of the well and sunken wreck. On April 23, the search for 11 missing crew members of the Deepwater Horizon was suspended. According to Transocean, the insured value of the rig is $560 million.
As of April 23, the Coast Guard National Strike Force was on scene. The Department of the Interior and the Minerals Management Service (MMs) had technical teams in place to oversee efforts by BP and Transocean to secure the well.
As of April 24, two leaks from the well pipe had been located. The Unified Incident Command (UIC), consisting of the Coast Guard and the MMS, was working with BP on the oil spill and leaks. Oil dispersant had been applied on April 23 and skimmers had recovered nearly 34,000 gallons of oil / water mix. Sea states in the area on Sunday, April 25, prevented the skimming vessels from operating.
The UIC approved plans to use submersible remotely operated vehicles to trigger the blowout preventer. Estimates at that time, April 25, were that about 42,000 gallons of oil a day were leaking. Those efforts began April 26 and were expected to take 24-36 hours. With improving weather, skimming operations were also expected to resume.
On April 28 a controlled burn was conducted by the UIC with monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency. The UIC stated that burning would not be the primary method of removing the oil slick. Chemical dispersants and natural means will be the primary methods. As of this report, about 260,000 gallons of the oil / water mix had been collected by the skimmers.
In addition, a third leak in the pipe was discovered on April 28.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano declared this incident a Spill of National Significance (SONS) on April 29. U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen was assigned as Federal Incident Commander for this event as of May 1. Allen was the IC for a drill in 2002, held in New Orleans, that tested the response plans for such a spill.
The April 29 report from the UIC stated that the burn was a success and the results would be evaluated. Over 763,000 gallons of the oil / water mix have been recovered.
As of April 30, the UIC reported 217,000 feet of boom (barrier) assigned, 75 response vessels are involved and nearly 2,000 people. Skimmers have recovered over 853,000 gallons of oil / water mix.
Overnight, April 30 through May 1, response crews used remotely piloted vehicles to dispense 3,000 gallons of dispersant at the leaks. The results are being evaluated. Two oil platforms near the growing oil slick have stopped production and one has been evacuated as a precaution.
Over 275,000 feet of boom has been assigned. 68 response vessels are involved. Nearly 143,000 gallons of dispersant has been applied and over 1 million gallons of oil / water mix recovered.
President Obama visited Louisiana on May 2. He was briefed by on-scene commanders and flown over some of the threatened marshes. Also on that date, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service issued restrictions on fishing activities in specific areas in and around the oil spill for at least ten days.
The results of a media brief by Admiral Allen on May 1 is here: Mother Nature and Coast Guard battle in Gulf oil spill
The website for all Federal activity related to the oil spill is here: Deepwater Horizon Response
The Twitter account for Federal activity is here: @Oil_Spill_2010
The Facebook page for Federal activity is here: Deepwater Horizon Response
The Coast Guard has posted related photos to Flickr here: Deepwater Horizon
To volunteer to help, or obtain a job involved with the cleanup, see this Louisiana government site.
To make a claim related to this event, start at this Coast Guard site.