Movie Monday: Deepwater Horizon


If you ever harbored dreams of working as a roughneck on a deep-sea oil-drilling platform, watching this movie probably will make you think twice.

This film’s re-enactment of Deepwater Horizon’s 2010 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico is a fine crescendo of rising tension and the hellish firestorm that killed 11 of Deepwater Horizon’s 126-member crew. It does a good job explaining for laymen some of the elements of the myriad difficulties of drilling for oil, particularly offshore.

Inevitably, like most disaster films, it dwells on the personal stories of the workers who maintained the rig and were faced with almost certain death upon its explosion. We understand things best when we identify with characters who seem real.

The film also personalizes the blame for the explosion, in the person of a grim, tense British Petroleum employee who repeatedly urges the platform operators, employees of the Transocean company, to work faster to get the project online after cost and time overruns.

It’s a movie, and it needs a bad guy. It convicts BP of all blame, which may not be fair.
What Is Missed

Here, from an excellent longer article, is Britannica’s summary of the event:

The Deepwater Horizon rig, owned and operated by offshore oil-drilling company Transocean and leased by oil company BP, was situated in the Macondo oil prospect in the Mississippi Canyon, a valley in the continental shelf. The oil well over which itwas positioned was located on the seabed 4,993 feet (1,522 metres) below the surface and extended approximately 18,000 feet (5,486 metres) into the rock. On the night of April 20 a surge of natural gas blasted through a concrete core recently installed by contractor Halliburton in order to seal the well for later use. It later emerged through documents released by Wikileaks that a similar incident had occurred on a BP-owned rig in the Caspian Sea in September 2008. Both cores were likely too weak to withstand the pressure because they were composed of a concrete mixture that used nitrogen gas to accelerate curing.

If you are curious, I encourage a look at the entire piece, available online.

This is just one movie. Well done as it is, it cannot explore the widespread, catastrophic damage the explosion and follow-on release of oil caused in the Gulf of Mexico, along its shores, to wildlife and businesses and the economy.

It also cannot cover the legal parade of damage claims, some fraudulent, in Louisiana, a state known for its well-fed plaintiffs’ bar. Halliburton alone paid more than $1.1 billion in claims. (I would not be eager to be the insurer for an oilfield services company.)

It also cannot contextualize the danger of work on offshore rigs. Transocean, a highly specialized offshore drilling company, had lost another 11 employees in North Sea drilling operations in various incidents from 2002 to 2000.

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