Sunday, March 12, 2017

Devastating Impact: Offshore Drilling

On April 20th 2010, tragedy struck on the Gulf of Mexico.  An offshore oil rig exploded, risking the lives of 126 workers [1].  11 workers were tragically killed [1].  17 were severely injured [2].   After the explosion, the massive oil rig sank two days later.  In the span of those two days, government reports announced that the spillage amounted to 60,000 barrels per day [1].  As the gigantic uncapped oil-well submerged, the 87 days that followed reported a spillage of 4.2 million barrels into the ecosystem [1].  The environmental and human impact was brutal. Exceedingly high mortality rates of animals followed and surrounding communities were deeply affected by the spillage – both physically and mentally.  Despite heavily funded clean-ups, evidence of oil remains at sea [1]. 

Infamously dubbed as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it is continually referred to as “the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history” [1].  Deepwater Horizon not only showcased hazardous oil spills, but it also provided a devastating reminder to the dangers of offshore drilling.

Since its conception, offshore drilling has been heavily debated.  Yet, the dangers, risks and devastating impact of offshore drilling is there for all to see – look no further than Deepwater Horizon!  Not only does the oil spills risk hazardous environmental impact; it also poses highly unsafe (life threatening!) working conditions.  In fact, Time magazine listed an offshore drilling job as “one of America’s most dangerous professions” [3].  One can only imagine the dangers of drilling workers in developing or less developed countries – whose training and working regulations might be vastly underdeveloped.

The temptation for offshore drilling is seemingly down to the potential yield.  Oil industries and companies have targeted offshore locations “as shallow fossil fuel reserves and near-shore drilling locations have become exhausted” [4].  In a nutshell, they see offshore locations as lucrative opportunities, where they have dug deeper and traveled further to prod untapped resources.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have issued warnings of “deeper drilling depths” that increase the risk of “accident, spills and fires” [4].  Oil industries have readily ignored and refuted these claims.  With the increasing societal dependence on oil and increased competition for industries, the risks of offshore drilling are continually taken.  

This begs the question: What are the dangers of oil drilling?  Here are a four standout risks:

  • Offshore drilling requires extremely complex equipment.  Especially when drilling into such great depths, these complex and sensitive equipment are often pushed beyond their capabilities [4].  Oil industries continually and blindly push the envelope of what they are capable of.  This causes oil companies to drill and “penetrat[e] further underground, [where] the technology needed to achieve these feats…[are] not entirely invincible” [4].  Weaknesses in the equipment and system can cause life-threatening accidents (ex. an explosion, oil spillage) when pushed too far.
  • The danger of “harsh offshore environments that pose engineering challenges to offshore drilling equipment” [4].  Unpredictable, unrelenting and brutal weather conditions (ex. ice, snow, storms) can affect the offshore oil rig.  Its functionality can be severely threatened, which can directly and indirectly cause accidents.  The isolation of offshore drilling makes it harder for workers to communicate, call and be reached to for help (emergencies!). 
  • Traveling to the unknown.  Oil companies often travel to unknown territory with offshore drilling.  The inexperienced depths in which they drill and operate is dangerously unpredictable.  Oil company BP, responsible for Deepwater Horizon, admitted that “they had never had to plug a well at such depths and were therefore unprepared for the conditions” [4].  Moreover, Deepwater Horizon “had drilled the world’s deepest offshore well before it exploded and sank” [4].
  • The aftermath of offshore accidents is disastrous.  It could easily “decimate [any] rich ecosystem” and severely impact all kinds of living animals [5].  Easily throwing “regional economies into chaos and caus[ing] lasting damage to special ecosystems” [5]. It would devastate coastal communities – physically (health), economically, and mentally [5].   

Enticed by new and potential streams of oil supply (and the profits that follow!); oil companies do not look to be stopping offshore drilling any time soon – despite the overwhelming dangers.  The response has taken this issue to the federal government, where bans of offshore drilling projects have been proposed.  Proponents believe that disastrous accidents, like Deepwater Horizon, are the strongest case for banning offshore drilling.  While it’s difficult to speak for the entire world, as each federal government has jurisdiction over their respective locations, government intervention looks to be the most feasible and efficient way to combat offshore drilling.

What do you think should be done about offshore drilling?  What are your feelings towards it? 

Please comment and let us know what you think!

Learn More:

Interested in watching a movie?  The Hollywood film Deepwater Horizon (2016), starring 
Mark Wahlberg, depicts the events of the disaster:

Check out this CNN YouTube video that summarizes the facts of Deepwater Horizon:


[1] Griffin, D., Black, N., & Devine C. (2015, April 20). 5 years after the Gulf oil spill: What we do (and don’t) know. Retrieved from
[2] Pallardy, R. (2016, May 9). Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. Retrieved from
[3] Webley, K. (2010, April 24). Just how dangerous are oil rigs, anyway? Retrieved from,8599,1984296,00.html
[4] Melina, R. (2010, May 28). Why is offshore drilling so dangerous? Retrieved from
[5] Matzner, F. (2015, May 14). Offshore drilling: Dirty, dangerous, and unnecessary. Retrieved from
Deepwater Horizon’s final hours [Online image]. (2010). Retrieved March 11, 2017 from
Effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill [Online image]. (2016). Retrieved March 11, 2017 from
How did it all start? [Online image]. (2010). Retrieved March 11, 2017 from
Offshore drilling rigs [Online image]. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2017 from
Offshore drilling rigs [Online image]. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2017 from
Oil field blowout [Online image]. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2017 from

1 comment:

  1. I think safety should be the top goal of ALL drilling, above all else!