The drill ship Deepwater Horizon was finishing work on an exploration well named Macondo, in an area called Mississippi Canyon Block 252. After weeks of drilling, the rig had drilled down over 18,000 feet, into an oil-bearing zone. The Transocean and BP personnel were installing casing in the well.
BP was going to cap the well, and then move the Deepwater Horizon to a different location and bring in another rig to produce the oil. Producing oil from the well is work done with entirely different equipment than the exploratory drilling ship is designed to do.
The Macondo Block 252 reservoir may hold as much as 100 million barrels. That’s not as large as other recent oil strikes in the Gulf, but BP management was still pleased. Success is success—certainly in the risky, deep-water oil environment. The front office of BP Exploration was preparing a press release to announce a “commercial” oil discovery.
This kind of exploration success was par for the course for Deepwater Horizon. A year ago, the vessel set a record at another site in the Gulf, drilling a well just over 35,000 feet and discovering the 3 billion barrel Tiber deposit for BP. So Deepwater Horizon was a great rig, with a great crew and a superb record.
Witnesses state that the lights flickered on the Deepwater Horizon. Then a massive thud shook the vessel, followed by another strong vibration. Within a moment, a gigantic blast of gas, oil and drilling mud roared up through three miles of down-hole pipe and subsea risers. The fluids burst through the rig floor and ripped up into the gigantic draw-works.
The scene was terrifying! It is amazing that only 11 were lost.
“Gas and oil rushed up the riser; there was little wind, and a gas cloud got all over the rig. When the main inductions of the engines got a whiff, they ran away and exploded. Blew them right off the rig. This set everything on fire. A similar explosion in the mud pit / mud pump room blew the mud pumps overboard. Another in the mud sack storage room, sited most unfortunately right next to the living quarters, took out all the interior walls where everyone was hanging out having - I am not making this up - a party to celebrate 7 years of accident free work on this rig.
7 BP bigwigs were there visiting from town.”
This is an excellent account of the disaster from a crewman on DWH:
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