Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Case Study

The Macondo Prospect

An oil and gas concern, the Macondo Prospect lies off the Gulf coast of Louisiana, in the marine zone known as the United States Exclusive Economic Zone. In March 2009, the British oil and gas multinational, BP acquired the rights to drill in the Macondo Prospect from the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS,) one of the agencies of the Department of the Interior until it was dissolved in 2011.

At the time of this transaction, the Macondo Prospect was widely considered to hold up to 50 million barrels of oil, making extraction a lucrative prospect indeed. But the Macondo Well itself targeted an offshore, deepwater ecological formation. That fact alone added a high level of complexity to the extraction process. At one point, for instance, BP drilled up to 5,000 feet below the sea. What’s more, hazards like high levels of natural gas further complicated drilling, making it more difficult, costly, and dangerous.

When BP began work in Macondo, it leased drilling rigs from Transocean, a Swiss-based offshore drilling contractor. Transocean’s semi-submersible rig, Marianas kicked off drilling for BP in October 2009. But Hurricane Ida damaged the rig, temporarily halting drilling, which would only resume in the new year – this time with a new rig, Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon.

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