A major historical event sometimes occurs that could be considered a “game changer” for an industry, an event so significant that it causes a basic reconsideration of the way business is conducted. The oil and gas industry found itself in the midst of such an event in 2010. As a result, oil and gas companies are conducting a close review of their operating models, contractor relationships, business risks and a number of new and proposed regulations.
After the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil and gas industry entered a new era. Understanding this development and its implications for the industry begins with an overview of the oil spill itself.On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded. According to US government estimates, 4.9 million barrels (648,000 tonnes) of oil spilled into the sea.1 Because the leak was a mile below the surface of the ocean, efforts to stop the flow were repeatedly hampered by complications. After nearly three months, the blowout was finally capped.The oil spill was the largest spill into marine waters, but it was not the largest accidental oil spill in history. California’s Lakeview Gusher in 1910 was greater both in volume (378 million gallons) and in duration (17 months).2 However, the event might well be unique in terms of its environmental impact, since the Lakeview spill was inland and the oil spilled from the Deepwater Horizon went directly into the ocean.The accident highlights that opportunities exist for the industry to improve its efforts even more as the complexity and challenges of meeting the world’s energy needs continue to increase.This paper reviews the initial industry reaction and provides insights about the future impact of this spill.