British firm BP has announced it has made a “significant oil discovery” at the Gila prospect in the Gulf of Mexico – its first since US regulators lifted a ban on deepwater drilling, set in 2010 following the calamitous spill at the oil giant’s Deepwater Horizon platform.
The discovery was made 300 miles south-west of New Orleans, in approximately 4,900 feet of water. It required engineers to drill 29,221 feet into the seabed.
Richard Morrison, regional president of BP’s Gulf of Mexico business, said, “The Gila discovery is a further sign that momentum is returning to BP’s drilling operations and well execution in the Gulf of Mexico.”
The finding is the most significant since the US lifted the ban on deepwater drilling, which was imposed after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. Some 5m barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion at BP’s platform, with 11 fatalities and an immeasurable environmental impact.
The legal case over the incident is still ongoing. BP has complained that the subsequent compensation scheme was unfair, claiming many businesses in the Gulf region were being reimbursed without having been affected by the spill. The firm obtained an injunction to stop paying out, but its lawyers were accused of having misled the courts by omitting information on compensation cases.
On Wednesday, former BP drilling engineer Kurt Mix was convicted for obstructing the federal investigation on the spill, as he tried to destroy evidence by deleting messages from his mobile phone. The accusation carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Meanwhile, US scientists have discovered that the Deepwater Horizon incident is a direct cause of mortality among dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico.
The study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that creatures from one of the worst affected areas were highly affected, displaying lung diseases and hormonal abnormalities, which more often than not results in their death.