Deepwater Horizon movie recounts safety missteps onboard the offshore rig, which set the stage for several reforms.
In the six years since the Macondo well blew up the Transocean-owned Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 crew members, both the oil and gas industry and the government have pushed through a bevy of regulations designed to prevent such a disaster from ever happening again.
The federal government introduced a range of new regulations, including those focused on safety, potential conflicts of interest and equipment. While the feds worked through the bureaucracy, the industry acted to increase coordinating between rigs and onshore support, as well as equipment and personnel checks and balances.
For its part, well owner BP plc, has spent billions of dollars in clean-up and settlement costs to coastal states, businesses and individuals. In September, the Alabama Legislature weighed how best to allocate its $1 billion settlement fund, and Mississippi will have $2.2 billion to spend on state services.
Meanwhile, the federal government and its offshore drilling program in the Gulf of Mexico is moving forward. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced a sale in New Orleans in March to offer roughly 47 million acres offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama for exploration. It will be the twelfth such bidding process. The previous 11 sales have netted more than $3 billion in offshore exploration and production (E&P) investment.
With the Sept. 30 release of the Mark Wahlberg film, Deepwater Horizon, Rigzone revisited the changes in how offshore oil and gas companies operate.
Deepwater Horizon Incident Spurs Several Safety Reforms
Immediately following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, there was an increased focus on health, safety and the environment (HSE) in the industry.
“The industry definitely got more safety-conscious,” Barbara Denson, director of origination for environmental firm Weston Solutions, commented after watching a pre-screening of the Deepwater Horizon movie. “I saw a huge increase in the number of regulations – both offshore and general.”
The Obama administration has implemented several regulatory reforms since April 2010, when the incident occurred. Federal agencies, including the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), have made efforts to enhance the safety and environmental protection of an industry whose image was marred by the spill.
Public perception of the oil and gas industry after the Deepwater Horizon incident also suffered. Denson shared that she felt like people outside of oil and gas didn’t like the industry and she felt bad for the BP workers who couldn’t wear their work jackets out in public for fear of being vilified.
“The incident wasn’t just one person making a mistake. It was a whole series of things that went wrong,” she said. “You could see over and over that it could have been stopped. There were policies in place. They had safety procedures. And one after the other … they were just ignored.”
Denson said though the industry has important safety measures in place, as per the movie, the missteps onboard the rig began when those measures were disregarded.
“The workers – all of them had on the appropriate ear protection, eye protection and fire retardant clothing. They had all the stripes showing areas where you aren’t supposed to walk beyond. The workers seemed very aware of what the safety concerns were,” Denson said. “The movie showed workers asking why they were doing certain things that weren’t safe. It’s not like people weren’t trained and did not know. In the movie, those concerns were just being ignored.”
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