The Gulf of Mexico oil spill at a glance

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 11, 2014 at 2:17 am •  Published: April 11, 2014
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — April 20 marks the fourth anniversary of an explosion on the BP-operated drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, which killed 11 workers about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico and set off the nation's worst offshore oil disaster.

WHAT HAPPENED

The Deepwater Horizon well was drilling the night of April 20 when it was rocked by an explosion and began burning. The rig sank less than two days later and crude oil gushed into the Gulf from the blown-out Macondo well. The well's location about a mile below the Gulf surface and the pressure of oil and natural gas erupting from it severely hampered efforts to cap the well. In July 2010, a cap was successfully placed over the well after an estimated 200 million gallons of oil escaped, though that amount is one of many points that remain in dispute. The collapsed rig remains on the Gulf bottom. The spill led to a moratorium for a time on deep-water drilling in the Gulf and assurances from federal officials that offshore oil drilling regulation and monitoring would be tightened in an effort to prevent future disasters like the BP spill. Drilling has since resumed.

CLAIMS, SETTLEMENTS, DISPUTES

Two phases of a trial in U.S. District Court have been held in New Orleans and a third is schooled to begin in January, dealing with matters of fault, questions of negligence, how much oil ultimately was spewed into the Gulf — all of which will determine how much the oil giant will have to pay in penalties under the federal Clean Water Act.

Meanwhile, BP estimates that, since May 2010, it has paid out roughly $11 billion so far in claims to individuals and businesses over economic losses and damages, plus nearly $1.5 billion to government. In 2012, the company and a committee representing numerous plaintiffs agreed to a settlement resolving most economic and property damage claims. However, a court-appointed administrator's interpretation of that settlement remains in dispute. The company initially estimated the settlement would result in it paying $7.8 billion in claims. Later, as it started to challenge the business payouts, the company said it no longer could give a reliable estimate for how much the deal will cost.