The explosion and fire at BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010 resulted in the death of 11 men and an uncontrolled crude oil leak 5000 feet beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. During the following 86 days before the well was capped on July 15, 2010, an estimated 5 million gallons of crude oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico and inshore waters. The Deepwater Horizon accident remains the largest oil spill in U.S. history. In addition to the oil spill, the well also released large volumes of natural gas. The response effort included the application of more than 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersants at the wellhead and on the surface of the water.
This web site is a companion to three Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) television broadcasts titled The Science of the Spill. The project was conducted by University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL), Mississippi Public Broadcasting, and Mississippi State University with funding from a National Science Foundation rapid response grant. The first program aired in August, before the completion of the relief wells that finalized the process of sealing the well. The second and third in September and December 2010, respectively.
The television programs were built around interviews with scientists who were actively conducting early research on the effects of the oil spill and response effort. The programs' primary objective was to address the questions most frequently in the minds of the public, primarily related to the immediate effects of the spill.
In late 2011 and early 2012, many of the same researchers were interviewed again. The scientists described the experience of working through the catastrophe and presented the early results of their research. From those interviews, a fourth video was produced, titled "Lessons Learned." That video and interview videos will soon be available on this website.
Some of the scientists interviewed by The Science of the Spill have already published research results in peer-reviewed journals. Details and links for those publications will be provided on this site's Links & Resources page as they are identified.
It will take years for the full effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill to manifest themselves. Research on the oil spill and response will continue for decades. Ongoing research projects and projects yet to begin will provide specific results. The new knowledge gained will construct and improve our understanding of how the Gulf of Mexico has been changed by the oil and natural gas spilled and the dispersants applied in Deepwater Horizon accident and the response. The research results will also provide input for improving the methods for responding to future spills.