One Year On

The first anniversary of the Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has been marked in a number of ways. Foremost it has been an opportunity to remember the eleven men who lost their lives. But it has also been a chance to take stock of the progress which has been made in ensuring that no other families will have to endure such tragedy.
This article appeared in Vol. 8, No. 3 - 2011


Oil spill recovery preparations and procedures. © BP p.l.c One of the major positives to have come from the disaster is the fact that oil companies are actively working together and sharing knowledge in order both to prevent future major oil spills and to be able to deal with them if they do occur. Well containment systems have been designed which can be deployed rapidly and effectively in a variety of scenarios, not just in the Gulf of Mexico but throughout the world. Major steps forward have been taken to improve response procedures, and the technology is designed to be made available to all operators, should the need arise.  

Many observers considered that lack of regulatory control had a part to play in the tragedy, and the US government has responded by reorganising the agency responsible. Other countries have also looked hard at their systems, realising that they too were allowing companies to drill in deep waters without asking the right questions about the abilities of either companies or agencies to deal with a disaster of this scale.  

The oil and gas business probably boasts some of the best scientific intellects in any industry. These are brains which have developed the technology required to visualise rocks buried beneath salt and to identify separate sedimentary layers just tens of centimetres thick, or which can discover ever more innovative ways of squeezing the last drop of oil from a field - topics discussed in this issue of GEO ExPro. The industry should ensure that some of these brains are also exercised on planning for the avoidance of disasters such as Macondo in the future. Lack of forethought and funding should never again allow us to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that accidents cannot happen.


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