Geology And Geophysics

Why the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico could Affect Onshore Operations



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"Why the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico could Affect Onshore Operations"
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The current British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may well affect onshore operations in several ways.  As the evidence continues to support the initial observations that the failsafe mechanism known as the blastoff preventer failed to perform its emergency safety shut-off operation, the oil industry most likely will tighten its safety regulations and oversight of onshore and offshore drilling operations especially since similar safety procedures, inspections and failsafe equipment are used for both types of rigs.

In review of the recent Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion and oil spill, it appears that lax oversight, poor inspection and maintenance procedures and lethargic enforcement of safety regulations and questionable readiness of failsafe equipment contributed to the fatal explosion that resulted in the massive oil spill.  In addition, this is the second time within a 20-year period that a BP drilling crew suffered fatalities due to safety inadequacies, lax oversight and faulty equipment.

The rational result of this latest offshore tragedy would be for the industry and/or government to clamp down on previous relaxed and inadequate safety oversight.  In addition, the industry must eliminate lackluster supervision, increase mandatory safety drills and improve inspection and maintenance procedures along with a more immediate and satisfactory resolution of faulty equipment and inferior wiring.

The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may have another impact on land based drilling operations.  One possibility is that public and government opposition to offshore drilling may cause a movement or action to stop or close more offshore drilling operations and increase onshore activity.  Drilling on a platform in deep water increases the risks and danger of accidental spillage and adds significant difficulty in containing oil slicks and spills.

The impact of the spill on tourism and its affect on the seafood industry cannot be fully determined at this early stage; however, fishing along the Louisiana coast has been halted for at least the next 10 days, pending the containment effort, recapture and stoppage of the oil spill and how the environment is progressively affected.

It could very well be that public outrage and an increased negative opinion of oil drilling may push for the closure of more offshore and onshore oil rigs, either for the short or long term.  In addition, the recent fatalities of human life along with the environmental tragedy taking place may create a larger demand to pursue alternative and safer energy options.  Whatever the physical results of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill may be and whatever however the industry and government responds to it, we can be sure that the repercussions and actions stemming from the tragedy will at the least spur long needed safety improvements to ensure that another drilling rig catastrophe will not happen again.

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