A Comparison of Oil Well Disasters in the Gulf of Mexico and Kuwait
Alissa Anderson and Kristen Immen, NC State University
In light of the recent events in the Gulf of Mexico, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been on everyone’s mind. In a country where we are extremely reliant on fossil fuels, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is more than an environmental disaster but is also an economic and security crisis. Since April 20, 2010 when the drilling rig exploded, several attempts to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf have been employed. As of now, oil is still gushing into the water from the deepwater well that is located 5,000 feet below the surface. Current estimates suggest that 60,000 barrels per day are flowing into the Gulf. The situation in the Gulf of Mexico was compared with the most well-known oil spill in U.S. history, the Exxon Valdez, a similar oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico -the Ixtoc I, and to the largest oil disaster in the history of the world which occurred in Kuwait during the Gulf War. Luckily, our client—Professor Bill Hunt—was working in Kuwait in 1991 to deal with the impact of the uncontrolled fires in the oil fields and has been able to supply us with detailed information regarding the spill and the fires. Our analysis led us to comparing the disaster in Kuwait to Deepwater Horizon in hopes of determining how does one well in the Gulf of Mexico compare with uncontrolled high pressure wells on fire in Kuwait’s Greater Burgan Field. Our paper will discuss how the Deepwater Horizon well compares with the uncontrolled Kuwait wells and the methodology and assumptions we made. Our initial results suggest that the Gulf of Mexico is roughly equivalent to six uncontrolled high pressure wells in Kuwait. The implications regarding pressure will be discussed.