Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill


The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is one of the largest oil spills in history. In the months that followed the disaster millions of litres of oil flowed out into the ocean. The oil leak off the coast of Louisiana is even greater than the Exxon Valdez disaster which occurred off the coast of Alaska when a tanker ran aground in 1989.

On April 20, 2010 gases started to form in the drilling pipe of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The gases ignited and the platform exploded. 10 workers were killed and 17 were injured. As a result of the explosion the drilling pipe that connected the rig to the ocean floor broke and oil started leaking out into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil rig belonged to BP, one of the biggest oil companies in the world.

At the time of the explosion the Deepwater Horizon was drilling oil from about 1,500 metres from the surface of the ocean.



Over months the oil spread out over an area of over 6500 square kilometres.

Many attempts were made to stop the flow of oil. Most of them, however failed. At first engineers tried to stop the oil leak by pumping mud into the hole. Then they put a dome on top of the oil leak. The oil collected is then pumped up to a ship. BP also started constructing relief wells that would be connected with the original well.

The cost of stopping the oil has been enormous. BP has already spent over 3 billion dollars in the first few months. They will have to spend much more cleaning up the coastlines in the months and years after the disaster.

The oil spill destroyed thousands of plants and animals in the sea and near the coast. Many species of birds and fish are at risk, as well as turtles, dolphins and other mammals. The Gulf of Mexico belongs to America’s big fishing grounds. Especially shrimp and oysters are very common in this area. Because of the disaster fishing has stopped. Tourism has also suffered because thousands of kilometres of beaches cannot be used. Scientists warn that it will take years to see how much damage the oil spill has caused.

The American government tried to ban offshore drilling but oil companies were able to overturn the ban in court.




Related Topics




  • aground =to be stuck in water that is not deep enough
  • attempt = to try out something
  • ban = forbid
  • billion = a thousand million
  • common = there are many of them
  • connect = link to
  • construct = build
  • court = place where a judge makes decisions about legal things
  • damage = harm
  • destroy = damage so that something can no longer be used
  • disaster = catastrophe
  • dome = a round roof around a structure
  • drilling pipe = the pipe that is used to get oil out of the ground
  • engineer = someone who knows a lot about technical things and how to work with them or repair them
  • enormous = a lot, very big
  • fail = if something is not successful
  • flow = run out
  • ignite =to start burning
  • injure = hurt
  • leak = a small hole lets liquid out
  • mammal = animal that drinks milk from its mother’s body when it is young
  • mud = wet earth that is soft and sticky
  • occur = happen
  • offshore drilling = to drill oil in the ocean, not on land
  • oil rig = platform to which the oil is pumped
  • overturn = cancel, reverse
  • oyster = shellfish that you can cook ; it has a pearl in it
  • relief well = a second well that is built close to the first one so that oil can be pumped up through it
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science
  • shrimp = small sea creature that you can eat ; it has ten legs and a soft shell
  • species = group of animals that come from the same family and can produce babies
  • spill = if a liquid leaks or runs out
  • spread = to move from one place to another
  • suffer = to get worse
  • surface = the top layer of something