Deepwater Horizon explosion is unfolding environmental disaster

The battle has begun to make sure the Deepwater Horizon oil rig accident, which has left 11 workers dead, does not become an environmental disaster.

At about 10pm central time in the US on April 20 an explosion caused a huge fire on board the semi-submersible oil platform Deepwater Horizon as it was drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The rig, hired by BP from Transocean, was drilling for new pockets of oil approximately 41 miles from the shores of Louisiana. There were 126 workers onboard the rig when the explosion occurred. 11 are assumed dead.

Following the explosion the rig capsized and sank, leaving a huge one mile by five mile oil slick.

The accident is the deadliest for America’s offshore drilling industry in more than twenty years. So far this year there have been three fires on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and since 2001 69 people have died in accidents.

US authorities, Transocean and BP have all launched investigations to figure out what went wrong. Meanwhile a potential environmental disaster is unfolding.

BP’s Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward said: “No words can express the sorrow and pain when such a tragic incident happens. On behalf of all of us at BP, my deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends who have suffered such a terrible loss. Our thoughts also go out to their colleagues, especially those who are recovering from their injuries.”

He added: "BP will be working closely with Transocean and the authorities to find out exactly what happened so lessons can be learnt to prevent something like this from happening anywhere again."

Oil spill teams and skimming vessels have recovered more than 1,000 barrels of oil-water mix. Around 32 vessels towing booms are working to contain the spill and 100,000 gallons of dispersant, a third of the world’s dispersant supply, is being deployed.

According to reports the rig Transocean retains deductibles of between $500,000 and $1,5m on the loss of any drilling rigs as part of its insurance programme. The rig could cost $700m to replace.

BP is self insured through its Guernsey based Captive, Jupiter, for any losses relating to the accident, according to reports.