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Deepwater Horizon Tragedy

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

28° 44′ 12.01″ N, 88° 23′ 13.78″ W

On April 20 2010, a blowout and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon floating platform (which was in the Gulf of Mexico at the time) tragically killed 11 crewmen. The ensuing fire proved impossible to extinguish. The burning rig sank two days after the explosion leaving the well gushing oil from the seabed. This leak caused the World’s largest marine oil spill, and the greatest environmental disaster in US history.

The Deepwater Horizon was a semi-submersible platform. At the time of the disaster it was drilling in sea water of a depth of approximately 1,500m (5,000ft). Below the seabed the exploratory drill head was at a depth of 5,600m (18,400ft) when the accident occurred. That’s a long way down, and hard to imagine.

Below, on the left, is a (reasonably) to-scale pictographic of the depth of the drill. Each screen pixel represents four meters. To show the scale, I’ve inserted a silhouette over the Empire State Building.

As impressive as this hole is, it’s not the deepest hole that was dug by the Deepwater Horizon. Just a few months previously it had successfully drilled a well in the Tiber field (also in the Gulf of Mexico). The deepest well it bored in that field was 10,683m (35,050ft), after passing through a, slightly shallower, sea depth of 1,259m (4,132ft) to reach the seabed.

The Tiber hole is depicted by the image on the right. For reference, Mount Everest is only 8,848m (29,029ft) tall, so the hole bored is significantly deeper that Mount Everest is tall.


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