BP Wants to Keep Drilling Near Gulf Oil Disaster Site

Deepwater Horizon fire

  In possibly the worst incidence of deja vu in recent memory, BP says that it still might drill in the massive reservoir where the Deepwater Horizon leak unleashed over 4 million gallons of oil. BP's reasoning is most likely a combination of pure greed and a realization that domestic oil resources are limited—the reservoir is estimated to hold $4 billion worth of oil, according to the Associated Press.

You might think that BP would be banned from deepwater drilling in the Gulf, but in fact the former Minerals Management Service has approved nearly 200 leases for deepwater tracts since the disaster, including 12 leases for BP. Four of those 12 leases are in the Mississippi Canyon area, right near the site of the Deepwater Horizon leak.

Is BP capable of safely maintaining a deepwater well? Maybe. A consortium of oil companies recently formed to generate a rapid response plan for deepwater sites in the Gulf of Mexico, and a comprehensive oil containment system is expected to be revealed in the next 18 months. But the Deepwater Horizon disaster already brought the Gulf perilously close to becoming a dead zone—we're not so sure it could weather another one-in-a-million accident.

Drilling accidents have never stopped oil companies before, of course. BP still operates the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field—the source of the Exxon Valdez's oil as well as the site of a 267,000 gallon leak in 2006. And BP is pushing ahead with risky offshore Alaska drilling. So until someone finally says "no" to BP's requests, disastrous oil spills will continue to loom in the future.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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  • adam kruvand

    This could have happened to any of the companies there, just happened to be BP. Just as much, if not more oil was spilled during hurricane Katrina. Only the media didn't run any stories about it, cause there were bigger fish to fry. This was an unfortunate accident, but there will always be spills, and they won't get news coverage, so let's get over this one - and find something else to beat to death in the news. Come on Fast Co. I expect more from you.

  • Conquistador

    Well, clearly there is (significant) oil there. And BP is an oil company. What exactly are you advocating? BP should be limited to shallow water drilling? non-water drilling? no drilling whatsoever? How do you feel if Exxon drills there? I'm no defender of BP, but it's completely naive to think that drilling in the Gulf is ending anytime soon.

  • Conquistador

    @Tyler - my intent is not to defend BP. Good, bad, or indifferent - it appears that Petroleum is going to continue to be a signficant portion of (US) energy for quite some time. And in a region where the US gets roughly 25% of domestic production - BP has shown the world the location of a massive proven reserve. *Someone* will be drilling into that formation.

    I don't quite follow the Sierra Leon analogy - seems to bring up national/sovereignty issues that don't apply.

  • Tyler Gray

    Idealistic, maybe, but not naive. It's cynical to discredit the possibility.

    "Well, clearly there is (significant) oil there. And BP is an oil company."

    Should that really be the only qualification? Should any diamond company be able to come in and take Sierra Leone's gems -- because they're a diamond company?

    I say, you want oil from the gulf, skim it off the top. Short of that, though, it could be as simple as this: You have a significant oil spill, you don't get to tap that well again. Period. You lose your lease. And someone who hasn't had a spill in the area -- or a spill anywhere for a certain period of time -- gets to bid on it. It's attaching behavior a very tangible financial reward/punishment.

  • Ariel Schwartz

    Actually, I'd feel a lot better if Exxon was drilling there. BP has an abysmal safety record that stems from long before the Gulf accident.