Analyzing Ecological Systems: A Case Study of the Gulf Oil Spill


Added on  2024-07-04

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Analyzing Ecological Systems
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Analyzing Ecological Systems: A Case Study of the Gulf Oil Spill_1

Option 2: Gulf Oil Spill Case Study
Introduction: Main Events
The British Petroleum Oil Spill incident occurred in 2010 within the Mexican Gulf after
the explosion and collapse of an oil drilling rig. The incident started on 20th April 2010 hence
killing 11 workers and injuring 17 others (Bryant, 2011). After the accident, deployed
underwater cameras revealed that the explosion triggered a continuous leakage of crude oil.
Forensic analysis revealed that the oil spillage occurred because of the blowout preventer
malfunction. BP Company teamed up with U.S. governmental agencies in stopping the oil
spillage and cleaning the contaminated parts of the ocean. Notably, the team stopped the oil
spillage on 15th July 2010 by capping the oil well located about 5,000 feet below the ocean's
surface. Scientists estimated that more than 4.9 million barrels of oil leaked into the ocean hence
contaminating around 665 miles of the coastline (Nelson & Grubesic, 2018). The cleanup
operation of the contaminated part of the ocean involved strategies like physical barrier erection,
skimming, and mobbing techniques.
The Enforced Federal Regulation
The U.S. federal government is responsible for the regulation and leasing of areas for oil
drilling operations within a three nautical mile radius from its coastline. Notably, safety
regulation takes a central position in the offshore oil drilling operation in the United States. The
safety regulation revolves around the management of contractors and leaseholders involved in oil
exploration and drilling operations. The U.S. federal government, for example, holds contractors
and holders responsible for the management of technologies involved in oil production.
According to this safety regulation, the leaseholder (BP Company) and subcontractors
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(Halliburton and Transocean) were responsible for the oil spillage incident considering that they
failed to maintain the blowout preventer. However, investigators further stretched the liability for
the accident to the U.S. federal government (Birkland & DeYoung, 2011). Investigators arrived
at this decision based on the consideration that the U.S. enforces its safety regulation on offshore
drilling operations using its Minerals Management Service (MMS) regime.
Ecological Risk of the Contaminated Area
Oil spillage has a negative impact on the ecosystem and organisms. Oil harms organisms
through absorption, ingestion, inhalation, ingestion, and physical contact. The British Petroleum
Oil Spill incident, for example, led to the contamination of plankton hence creating food scarcity
for crustaceans within the Gulf of Mexico. The food scarcity and intoxication led to the death of
a large population of crustaceans, birds as turtles. Studies indicated that the oil spillage created a
problem for the ecosystem and organisms within the Mexican Gulf in the long run. Oil ingestion,
for example, leads to organ damage and suppression of the immune systems of birds, animals,
and fishes. Physical contact with oil creates additional problems for sea animals, including
ulceration and skin irritation. Contamination of the seawater threatened the survival of turtles,
fishes, dolphins, seagulls, eagles, skunks, and raccoons within the contaminated areas.
Economic Value of the Scenario
The British Petroleum Oil Spill was a costly accident for the U.S. government, BP
Company, and its subcontractors. Various state agencies and the BP Company, for example,
spent around $40 billion in the cleanup process of the contaminated areas in 2010 (Aldy, 2011).
BP Company further spent $8.91 billion in further cleanup programs to reinstate the
contaminated ecosystem to its original state within the same year (Aldy, 2011). The company
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