The massiveness of the Deepwater Horizon spill forced the oil industry to try just about every conceivable method for removing oil from the Gulf and its shoreline: using ships to skim oil from the surface, controlled burning of the oil slick in open water and the use of chemical dispersants to break up the massive cloud of oil underwater.
While there's been controversy about the effectiveness of that effort, it provided experience and knowledge that will be invaluable in the event of another such accident.
For example, oil industry officials have learned how to combine information from a variety of sources -- satellite and aerial photography, thermal imaging, radar and infrared sensing, among others -- to detect the size of oil plumes and track their movement, which is essential to choosing the right method of cleaning up the mess. They've also built a new network of 26 radio towers outfitted with equipment for communicating with ships and planes, which will enable them to more easily coordinate response efforts to a future spill. In addition, the industry has beefed up its skimming capabilities, adding four modified barges known as "Big Gulp" skimmers, and setting up a system that can marshal nearly 6,000 local commercial fishing vessels to join in skimming operations. However, some of the other methods used to deal with the April 2010 spill remain controversial. While setting fire to oil removed as much or more of the spill as skimming, officials remain concerned about health risks from the resulting air pollution. The effectiveness of the approximately 2.5 million gallons of chemical dispersants used in the Gulf remains unclear, and there are nagging questions about the possible long-term health and environmental effects of the chemicals.
- Barker, Kim. “Spillionaires the new rich after Gulf Crisis.” Seattle Times. April 14, 2011. (Dec. 4, 2011) http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2014768081_spillion14.html
- “BP Announces Enhanced Drilling Standards in the Gulf of Mexico.” July 15, 2011. (Dec. 4, 2011) http://www.bp.com/genericarticle.do?categoryId=2012968&contentId=7069905
- BP Oil Spill: About the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.” NOAA.gov. 2011. (Dec. 4, 2011) http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov/oil-spill/
- Bromwich, Michael R. “Decision Memorandum for the Secretary.” Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Oct. 1, 2010. (Dec. 5, 2011) http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=64703
- Casselman, Ben and Chazan, Guy. “Disaster plans lacking at deep rigs.” Wall Street Journal. May 18, 2010. (Dec. 5, 2011) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703315404575250591376735052.html
- “Deepwater Horizon Accident Investigation Report.” BP. Com. Sept. 8, 2010. (Dec. 4, 2011) http://www.bp.com/liveassets/bp_internet/globalbp/globalbp_uk_english/gom_response/STAGING/local_assets/downloads_pdfs/Deepwater_Horizon_Accident_Investigation_Report.pdf
- “Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling.” National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. January 2011. (Dec. 4, 2011) http://www.oilspillcommission.gov/sites/default/files/documents/DEEPWATER_ReporttothePresident_FINAL.pdf
- Fairley, Peter. “How to Prevent Deepwater Spills.” Technology Review. June 10, 2010. (Dec. 5, 2011) http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/25525/
- “The Global Standard.” BP.com. 2011. (Dec. 5, 2011) http://www.bp.com/sectiongenericarticle800.do?categoryId=9038726&contentId=7070770
- Leff, Lisa and Plushnick-Masti, Ramit. “Gulf Oil Spill: Army Of Robot Subs Working To Contain Leak.” Huffington Post. June 24, 2010. (Dec. 4, 2011) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/24/gulf-oil-spill-robot-sub-army_n_625029.html
- McKenna, Phil. “Oil Industry Failed to Heed Blowout Warnings.” New Scientist. May 10, 2010. (Dec. 4, 2011)
- Loftus, Randy Lee. “Risks of deep-water drilling get brush-off.” Anchorage Daily News. Jul. 1, 2010. (Dec. 4, 2011) http://www.adn.com/2010/07/01/1349546/deeper-oil-wells-in-gulf-pose.html
- “Oil Spill Answers: Why The Blowout Protector Failed.” Newsweek. May 26, 2010. (Dec. 5, 2011) http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/blogs/the-human-condition/2010/05/27/oil-spill-answers-why-the-blowout-protector-failed.html
- “Remotely Operated Vehicles.” BP.com. (Dec. 5, 2011) http://www.bp.com/sectiongenericarticle800.do?categoryId=9036600&contentId=7067604
- “Salazar: Deepwater Drilling May Resume for Operators Who Clear Higher Bar for Safety, Environmental Protection.” U.S. Department of Interior. Oct. 12, 2010. (Dec. 5, 2011) http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Salazar-Deepwater-Drilling-May-Resume-for-Operators-Who-Clear-Higher-Bar-for-Safety-Environmental-Protection.cfm
- Stein, Sam. “Gulf Deepwater Drilling Resumes Without Changes To Spill Liability.” Huffington Post. Jan. 4, 2011. (Dec. 4, 2011) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/04/deepwater-drilling-resumes-gulf-spill-liability_n_804430.html
- Walsh, Bryan. “Government Report Blames BP on Oil Spill. But there's Plenty of Fault.” Sept. 14, 2011. (Dec. 4, 2011) http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2011/09/14/government-report-blames-bp-on-oil-spill-but-theres-plenty-of-fault/#ixzz1fcjfbuPU
Disposing and storing coal ash is tricky, and it takes one small trigger to cause a catastrophe. HowStuffWork looks at coal ash and the environment.