HOME LAB DEEPWATER HORIZON, PART 1
There is a vast amount of information available regarding the Deepwater Horizon incident. The primary purposes of this lab are (a) to provide you an opportunity to read about the spill incident and the factors effecting environmental concerns, and (b) to help you learn to process the information, especially when it is conflicting, in such a way as to discount ‘bad’ information, acknowledge ‘good’ information, and gain useful knowledge from the overall body of information.
Regarding the Deepwater Horizon Spill, answer the following based on your internet research. Cite all source references in your answers, and include dates for websites and news media information. For example, your text might look something like: “According to The Critter Foundation in their May 2009 Report (www.crittercatsreport.com, May 10, 2010), most cats don’t like water.” Be careful to avoid the appearance of plagiarism. The purpose here is for you to find good sources, research the information, then present it in your own word to demonstrate your understanding of the material.
1) What actually happened to cause the Deepwater Horizon Spill? What is a ‘blow out’? Describe the series of events that led to this release of petroleum material.
The Deepwater Horizon Spill was caused by the explosion of an oil drilling rig named “Deepwater Horizon” as told by the Environmental Protection Agency in their report (most recently updated in 2015). The Oil Drum, a news source dedicated to discussing “energy and our future”, denotes in more detail the events that led up to history’s largest oil spill within their May 2010 article. There was not the correct amount of cement between the production and protection casings, which led to a faulty blowout preventer and a consequent blowout. The Arnold and Itkin law firm, a group that specializes in maritime law, explains a blowout as an event occurring when the pressure of an underground collection of oil, the oil field, becomes too much. The pressure builds when digging occurs, though it typically will not lead to blowouts with the proper blowout preventers. Because of this foreboding fault, as the extraction continued to produce pressure with the lack of safeguards there was a blow out and then the pulsating and vigorous release of petroleum.
2) What is ‘crude oil’ as compared to ‘refined oil’? Is crude oil homogeneous?
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), crude oil is found under the ground and then extracted, staying in liquid form the whole time. The 2017 EIA report also includes that crude oil is composed of a “mixture of hydrocarbons”, making it a heterogenous and not homogenous mixture. Refined oil, which are petroleum products, is when the crude oil is made into more useful products. This can be done by both removing hydrocarbons and processing the crude oil, the EIA continues.
3) Does the released material only affect the top of the ocean – was all floating?
The released material did not only affect the top of the ocean. National Public Radio (NPR) has continued years after the spill to keep up with the impacts of the spill, and in doing so interviewed Cynthia Sathou, executive director for the Gulf Restoration Network. Sarthou says even five years later, oil is still lingering “on the bottom” of the ocean.
4) What is a deep water plume? How long will they be/were they in the gulf, if
at all, as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident?
In 2011, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHIO) gathered a group of scientists to investigate potential plumes caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Essentially, the source determines that a deep water plume is a pocket of water contaminated with substance, like the liquid hydrocarbons or oil in this specific example. These pockets manifest as streams, which prevents the natural flow and thriving of ecosystems in the water because they can’t float to the surface of an ocean. The Deepwater Horizon incident did produce deep water plumes, and the WHIO describes them as “light color” streams full of hydrocarbons. Written in 2013, Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN) argues that it will take years to resolve all the issues caused by the Deepwater Horizon incident, especially the prominent plumes. The C&EN also presents the idea that the deep water plumes and other side effects impact the livelihoods of organisms. Theoretically, even if the plumes were to disappear the damage has already been done.
5) What are the loop current and the Gulf Stream? Why are they important to
understanding effects of the spill?
The European Space Agency (ESA) has developed a radar satellite that has captured distinct images of the Loop Current, a clockwise flowing current that propels with great force around the Gulf of Mexico to Florida’s direction. On May 19 2010, the ESA released a statement disclosing visual proof from their satellite that oil from the spill had infiltrated the current. According to the University of Miami (last updated in 2013), the Gulf Stream has a similar path moving from Caribbean areas to the Florida area. This stream also is linked to Europe.
Understanding these streams and currents is important to understanding the effects of the spill because now the oil has a greater scope of water to contaminate. In turn, the oil is seeping into more environments and bio diversities.
6) How will expected impacts change if a hurricane enters the Gulf this year?
Scientific American, a news journal, detailed the possible and observed implications of the Deepwater Horizon spill on storms and hurricanes in an article released July 15, 2010. If a hurricane were to develop, chemicals and oil will be picked up by the wind and dispersed to greater lands heightening the impacts of the oil spill. The Scientific American says results will not be “apocalyptic”. However, it will contribute to pollution levels. Similar to the way sea salt can coat the surrounding objects of a shore, there could be oily coatings and residue on surrounding coastal areas. The overall expected environmental impacts would be more severe if a hurricane entered the gulf.
7) Are birds the only animals that have been affected? If not, discuss some of
the long term impacts to surface dwelling wildlife, burrowing wildlife, fish, and
No, birds are not the only animals suffering from the effects of the oil spill. To again reference Cynthia Sarthou’s comments in the NPR report, there has been reports of deaths from animals as large as dolphins. As the oil continued to spread, the environmental writer Bob Marshall also contributed to NPR’s April 2015 report. Marshall explains how the oil has reached Florida’s wetlands. The oil then coated mangroves and consequently killed them. Even bays in Louisiana face oil contamination, Marshall entails. NPR also found that oyster reefs are no longer producing the same levels of oysters as a result of the spill, whether it be through direct contamination or consequences of it. There is a huge scope of surface animals and plants alike in diverse locations.
8) Back in May 2010, what parts of Florida were expected to be impacted by the
spill? How many have actually been impacted? Will there be more to come?
Ironically, as explained in Elaine Landau’s 2011 book about the Oil Spill, the incident happened the same night the crew received ceremonial compliments on its safety. The initial hope was that the spill could be quickly contained and impact as few parts of the environment as possible. However, part of what made this incident so distinctive was the great depth of the blow out, massive spillage, and extensive time that the oil was able to pulse out of the rig. Through the Gulf Stream and Current Loop, the oil has traveled to Florida as captured by the previously mentioned images from the ESA. Again referencing the NPR report, there is evidence of the wetlands of Florida being effected as well. Not only were parts of Florida impacted physically, their economy as well suffered due to discrepancies in fish rates and tourism. Due to both the physical and nonphysical parts of Florida being considered, there is a countless number of parts impacted by the oil spill. Tourism deficit is felt all the way from coastal Florida to the deep heart of the state. The environment itself is very co-dependent, though harshest impacts were in the coasts and wetlands. Now, the cleanup plan is in motion. So, there should not be more damage to come.
9) Is there any person or any group still being affected by the Deepwater
The consequences of the Deepwater Horizon event still run deep. This severe incident put BP in a hot seat, and they were ordered to save all of their information and files concerning the extraction for a massive court case, as reported by the Information Management Journal in 2010. In a December 2016 report done by Linda Marsa for Grist exposes the devastating chemical impacts on people living near the location of the oil rig. In the article, Dr. Michael Rbichaux has recorded symptoms as diverse as seizures and irregular menstruation all rooting in oil spill chemicals. Sickness as prominent as Leukemia has been reported in people who dealt directly with the oil. Cognitive effects often coincide with the physical effects, and the source continues to compare sickness related to the oil as the type of detrimentally associated with lead poisoning. The threat of birth defects lingers on unborn children.
When the oil rig exploded, there were 11 deaths recorded among platform workers according to the news website “Independent” in September 2010. It is important to consider the permanent emotional impact that the families of the deceased must deal with every day. These people will be affected each day as they cope with their loss and attempt to process the faults of the oil industry. Keith Jones, a father of one of the victims chose to speak out about his grief in a powerful documentary interview as told in the EBSCO journal “After the Spill” by Stephanie Bange.
10) References. Cite all references that you used, in MLA format. At least 4 references should be used, no less than 2 of them should be from websites that end in ‘.gov’ or ‘.org’. Do NOT use Wikipedia. If you are not sure how to present information in MLA format, the Library has a helpful website here: http://libguides.polk.edu/c.php?g=519712
Bange, Stephanie. “After the Spill.” School Library Journal , vol. 63, no. 1, 1 Jan. 2017, p. 50.
Biello, David. “How Will a Hurricane Affect the Oil Spill?” Scientific American, 15 July 2010,
“BP Faces Court, Discovery Obligations.” Information Management Journal, vol. 44, no. 5,
2010, p. 18. EBSOhost.
“BP oil spill: Disaster by numbers.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 13
Sept. 2010, www.independent.co.uk/environment/bp-oil-spill-disaster-by-numbers-2078396.html.
“Deepwater Horizon – BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency,
19 Apr. 2017, www.epa.gov/enforcement/deepwater-horizon-bp-gulf-mexico-oil-spill.
Elliott, Debbie. “5 Years After BP Oil Spill, Effects Linger And Recovery Is Slow.” NPR, NPR,
20 Apr. 2015, www.npr.org/2015/04/20/400374744/5-years-after-bp-oil-spill-effects-linger-and-recovery-is-slow.
Esa. “Gulf of Mexico oil spill in the Loop Current.” European Space Agency, 19 May 2010,
Kemsley, Jyllian. “After The Deepwater Horizon Disaster.” CEN RSS, 3 June 2013,
Landau, Elaine. “Oil Spill! Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico .” p. 504. EBSCOhost, 15 Mar. 2015.
Lippsett, Lonny. “A Plume of Chemicals from Deepwater Horizon.” Oceanus Magazine, WHOI,
18 July 2011, www.whoi.edu/oceanus/feature/a-plume-of-chemicals-from-deepwater-horizon.
Marsa, Linda. “6 years after Deepwater Horizon oil spill, thousands of people are still sick.”
Grist, 10 Oct. 2016, grist.org/article/6-years-after-deepwater-horizon-oil-spill-thousands-of-people-are-still-sick/.
“Oil Well Blowouts.” Maritime Injury Lawyers, www.offshoreinjuryfirm.com/oil-rig-explosions/common-causes-of-explosions/blowouts/.
“The Gulf Stream .” The Gulf Stream, University of Miami, 2013,
“U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis.” What is
the difference between crude oil, petroleum products, and petroleum? – FAQ – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 8 Dec. 2017, www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=40&t=6.
What caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster? The Oil Drum, 21 May 2010,
11) OPTIONAL **BONUS 10 points**: For three of the references noted in #10 above, provide screen shots to show that you located the resource through the Library website for Articles and Databases. Start here: https://www.polk.edu/library-tlcc/
I used the database EBSCOhost that I located throhg the Library website. I attached screenshots in a PowerPoint.