Frequently Asked Questions

What is your interest in all this?

I'm not associated with any oil company. The web page on the spill is meant to gather as much factual information as possible.

Why would anyone drill for oil if the risk of spills is so high?

The accident has changed the perception of deepwater drilling. Engineers have always known that deepwater drilling had risks, but the perception was that the technology had progressed to the point, where any accidental blowout could be managed. The perception of a low risk or risk-free operation, held through two decades of drilling, died in 5 minutes on the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010. There is the "before April 20" reality and the "post April 20" reality.

What is the future of deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico?

It is not easy to know. The real question is whether the reasons for this accident and similar ones are correctable or not. It is the responsibility of the oil industry to identify the causes and preventative measures, before there can be any more deepwater drilling.

President Obama has put temporary hold on new deepwater drilling permits to the Gulf of Mexico. I do not believe the President can put a permanent hold as deep water development is ongoing, and lawsuits will be initiated against the Mineral Management Service, which was responsible for the offshore leases to the oil companies.

President Obama has also put a temporary halt to offering new exploration block leases in the Gulf of Mexico. This could become permanent.

How many times do we let BP fail before we send in people that can shut off this well?

BP has been, and will in the future be accused of many things, some true and some false.The very worst accusation to date is that BP was slow in reacting to the blow out. I guess people on the outside have no idea of the preparations needed before you attempt to kill a well.

BP recognized that it was a crisis and time was of the essence. They attempted to shut in the well by manually closing the blow out preventers. If this had worked, it would have been a seven day blow out.

They implemented the most proven method means of shutting in a well- relief well drilling. They will have two relief wells drilled in approximately three months. The first well was spudded on May 2, thirteen days after the blow out. To complete planning, get all approvals and begin drilling in this short of a time span can only result from an intense and collaborative effort.

Since they wanted to further shorten the time to kill the well, they have tried the top kill. Results of the top kill as of today (May 26) are not yet available. The coffer dam failed, but this was never a solution to the blow out, but an attempt to reduce the amount of oil spilled.

Didn't BP initially downplay the accident, saying that there was no oil flowing, and everything was ok? Then didn't they say it was only 1,000 barrels per day (BPD) coming out, and then 5,000 BPD, when we know that the real number is 50 to 100,000 BPD?

There has been a lot of inaccurate information on this. Let us begin with the zero flow, day 1 statement. This came from the US Coast Guard that they could not see any oil leaking from underwater cameras. Imagine an oil rig dropping to the ocean floor, it's likely conditions made it difficult to see anything. I have seen no evidence that BP was laxed or downplayed the significance of an oil spill from day one.

Shortly thereafter, the NOAA group based in Seattle, looking at spill areas, indicated that about 1,000 BPD was leaking and later revised it to 5,000 BPD. Several outside experts judge the oil spill rate to be in the range of 25,000 to 100,000 BPD.

The director of a task force with highly experienced specialists announced today (May 27) that their best estimate is 12,000 to 19,000 BPD. In their statement, they indicate that more work will be done, and these estimates are subject to change.

How much will BP have to pay?

Too early to tell. Way, way too early. The lawsuits are bound to go for years.

Who is responsible for the spill?

Who's fault is it? Or who had final authority in the drilling operation? The operator, BP, generally has the final authority, so if the cementing and subsequent testing was improper, BP will be held responsible. The failure of the blow out preventers to close, will be investigated. If the equipment was defective, it is possible that Transocean (rig owner) or Cameron (manufacturer) may be to blame. Do not expect a simple cause, as the initial investigation has revealed the blow out is the result of a series of problems and wrong decisions.