(Reuters) - An April 20 drilling rig explosion claimed the lives of 11 workers, and the rig’s subsequent collapse unleashed a major oil spill that threatens U.S. Gulf of Mexico ecosystems and economy.
Also threatened is the heart of the U.S. energy production, both on and offshore as a giant, unprecedented underwater leak spreads oil across the northern Gulf of Mexico between the mouth of the Mississippi River and Florida.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s plans to widen offshore drilling have been put on hold, and energy giant BP Plc faces another blow to its reputation and a multi-billion bill for cleaning up the mess and paying damages.
Below is a chronology of the spill and its impact:
April 20, 2010 - Explosion and fire on Transocean Ltd drilling rig Deepwater Horizon licensed to BP; 11 workers missing, 17 injured. The rig was drilling in BP’s Macondo project 42 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana, beneath about 5,000 feet (1,525 metre) of water and 13,000 feet under the seabed. A blowout preventer, intended to prevent release of crude oil, failed to activate.
April 22 - The Deepwater Horizon rig, valued at more than $560 million, sinks in 5,000 feet (1,525 meters) of water. A five-mile long oil slick is seen.
April 23 - The U.S. Coast Guard suspends search for missing workers, all thought to have been near the site of the blast, and are presumed dead.
April 25 - The Coast Guard says remote underwater cameras detect the well is leaking 1,000 barrels of crude oil per day (bpd). The agency calls the leak a “very serious spill” that threatens on-shore ecosystems along the Gulf Coast. It approves a plan to have remote underwater vehicles activate blowout preventer and stop leak. Efforts to activate the blowout preventer fail.
April 26- BP’s shares fall 2 percent on fears the cost of cleanup and legal claims will deal the London-based energy giant a heavy financial blow.
April 27 - The U.S. Departments of Interior and Homeland Security announce plans for a joint investigation of the explosion and fire. The Coast Guard said the leaking crude may be set ablaze to slow the spread of oil in the Gulf.
April 28 - The Coast Guard says the flow of oil is 5,000 bpd, five times greater than first estimated. Controlled burns begin on giant oil slick, but shifting winds are expected to push crude ashore.
April 29 - U.S. President Barack Obama pledges “every single available resource” including the U.S. military, to contain the spreading spill, which Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says is of “national significance.” Obama also says BP is responsible for the cleanup. Louisiana declares state of emergency due to threat of state’s natural resources.
April 30 - A top Obama aide says no drilling will be allowed in new areas, as Obama had recently proposed, until the cause of the Deepwater Horizon accident is known. The U.S. Justice Department said a team of lawyers was monitoring the spill. BP Chairman Tony Hayward said the company took full responsibility for the spill and would pay all legitimate claims and the cost for the cleanup. The Interior Department orders safety inspections of all 30 deepwater drilling rigs and 47 deepwater production platforms.
May 1 - The Coast Guard says the leak will affect the Gulf shore.
May 2 - Obama visits the Gulf Coast to see cleanup efforts first hand. U.S. officials close areas affected by the spill to fishing for an initial period of 10 days.
Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by David Gregorio