Deepwater Horizon oil rig accident

Two years after the explosion and sinking of Deepwater Horizon oil rig, the Gulf of Mexico continues to sustain the consequences of the most devastating ecological disaster that hit American coasts.

Photo credit: NASA The oil slick triggered by the spilling of 4.9 million barrels of oil (780 million liters) from April 20 to September 19, 2010, continues to upset the regional fragile ecosystem, while Beyond Petroleum (former British Petroleum) the oil company responsible for the accident, faces numerous lawsuits lodged against it.

Deepwater Horizon : the plateform discharge oil in the ocean

An indefinite quantity of oil is still in the ocean, the swamps and on the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico. Moreover, sea floors are polluted by the chemical products, which were used after the Deepwater Horizon rig accident to clean up the sea.

According to a survey conducted in 2011 by American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 70% of the hydrocarbons spilled in the ocean was dissolved or retained in the Gulf’s deep water. When storms strike, oil resurfaces reaching coastal areas.

Deepwater Horizon : an ecological disaster

According to specialists, the long-term impact of the oil slick on the ecosystem could be felt over several generations. The Gulf of Mexico will, therefore, have to wait decades before it can recover from pollution.

Two years after the accident, ecologists have found that:

  • dolphin corpses continue to reach the coastal shores,
  • malformation and substantial lesions have been spotted in marine fauna, especially with crustacean,
  • consumption of seafood is hazardous to human health,
  • sustainable lesions have been discovered in entire coral reef sites.

Deepwater Horizon accident : regional economy affected

The local economy has not yet recovered from the disaster:

  • The production of crustacean and fish has drastically diminished, while many species have been infected by chemicals,
  • Seafood-processing industries have closed down,
  • Fishermen are left with no livelihoods.

It is worth noting that 20% of American seafood comes from that region.

Deepwater Horizon accident : compensation of victims

Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard © 3rd Class Patrick Kelley, CC BY 2.0

In consideration of the scale of the damages, the final bill of this catastrophe will undoubtedly surpass all forecasts. BP, which ceded as of April 2010 nearly 30% of its assets, will have to settle a bill estimated for the time being at 40 billion USD.

The British company, whose image has seriously deteriorated, and which has lost the trust of its investors, has made a reserve of 37 billion USD to cover the consequences of the accident.

A first indemnification amounting to 8.1 billion USD has been already disbursed for some of the victims of the oil slick. An amicable settlement has been concluded in April 2012 for the settlement of the most of the economic losses affecting private individuals as well as health-related damages. The second 7.8 billion USD agreement does not include the lawsuits filed by the American department of justice, federal agencies, the states or local communities.

In addition to these two bills, 14 billion USD will be disbursed in order to finance the underwater wells clogging operations, ocean and shore clean-up.

BP has, by the end of May 2012, disbursed 29.9 billion USD in total, but the case remains wide open. By virtue of the federal law, “Clean Water Act”, the oil company may be called upon to settle a new penalty calculated according to the quantity of oil that leaked out of the wells (from 1 100 to 4 300 USD per barrel of oil spilled into the sea).
It also sustains other lawsuits lodged by American pension funds, investors and shareholders. These cases pertain to false statements made by the oil company before and after the accident. BP is hoping to settle amicably the civil and penal litigations proposing 15 billion USD of damages while the American department of justice is claiming 20 to 25 billion USD. To be continued, …

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