Deepwater Horizon accident and response

The Discoverer Enterprise arrives to install the capping equipment - July 2010

On the evening of 20 April 2010, a gas release and subsequent explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig working on the Macondo exploration well for BP in the Gulf of Mexico.

Eleven people died as a result of the accident and others were injured. We deeply regret this loss of life and recognize the tremendous loss suffered by the families, friends and co-workers of those who died.

The fire burned for 36 hours before the rig sank, and hydrocarbons leaked into the Gulf of Mexico before the well was closed and sealed.

The accident involved a well integrity failure, followed by a loss of hydrostatic control of the well. This was followed by a failure to control the flow from the well with the blowout preventer (BOP) equipment, which allowed the release and subsequent ignition of hydrocarbons. Ultimately, the BOP emergency functions failed to seal the well after the initial explosions.

We regret the impacts on the environment and livelihoods of those in the communities affected. We have, and continue to, put in place measures to help ensure it does not happen again.

How we responded

We acted to take responsibility for the clean-up, working under the direction of the federal government to respond swiftly to compensate people affected by the impact of the accident, to look after the health, safety and welfare of the large number of residents and people who helped respond to the spill, and to support the economic recovery of the Gulf Coast’s tourism and seafood industries impacted by the spill. We have conducted studies with federal and state natural resource trustees to identify and define the injury to natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

Extensive oil spill response

BP, government agencies and others worked together to control the spill and minimize its impact on the environment and human health by containing, removing and dispersing the oil offshore, and by implementing strategies to protect the shoreline and clean up oil that came ashore.

At its peak in 2010, the response effort involved the mobilization of approximately 48,000 people, the coordination of approximately 6,500 vessels and the deployment of approximately 2,500 miles (13.5 million feet) of boom to contain or absorb the oil. As at the end of December 2014, BP has spent more than $14 billion and workers have devoted more than 70 million personnel hours on response and clean-up activities. The U.S. Coast Guard ended the remaining active clean-up operations in the Deepwater Horizon area of response in April 2014. If residual oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident is later identified and requires removal, BP will take action at the direction of the Coast Guard.

In addition, we have committed long-term funding for independent research to improve our knowledge of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and better understand and mitigate the potential impacts of oil spills in the region and elsewhere.


The information on this page forms part of the information reviewed and reported on by Ernst & Young as part of BP's 2014 sustainability reporting. View the full assurance statement.