Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Timeline
Note: This page is no longer being updated. Please refer to the Wikipedia entry for an up to date timeline.
April 20 - Eleven workers are killed in a fire and explosion on the Transocean Ltd's drilling rig Deepwater Horizon licensed to BP. Workers attempted to activate both the blowout preventer (a valve designed to seal the well in the event of a burst) and the failsafe switch (a backup switch to stop the flow of oil at the source), but both malfunctioned.
April 22 - The Deepwater Horizon rig sinks and an oil slick approximately five miles is visible.
April 24 - A plan to use remote underwater vehicles to activate a blowout preventer and hopefully stop the leak is approved, but efforts fail.
April 25 - The US Coast Guard uses underwater cameras to detect that the well is leaking approximately 1,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
April 28 - The Coast Guard re-examines the leak and reports that the flow of oil is approximately 5,000 barrels (or 210,000 gallons) per day. This estimate is five times larger than originally reported. A controlled burn is used on the growing oil slick.
April 29 - President Obama promises that "every single available resource" including the US military will be used to contain the oil spill. He also states that BP is responsible for the cleanup. The state of Louisiana declares a state of emergency due to the impact of the spill on the state's natural resources.
April 30 - Obama's administration reports that there will be no new drilling areas until the cause of the BP oil spill is known. The chairman of BP Tony Hayward says the company takes full responsibility for the spill and plans to pay all legitimate claims and the cost of cleanup.
May 2 - Obama visits the Gulf Coast. Areas affected by the oil spill are closed for an initial 10 day period. BP begins drilling a relief well alongside the failed well. This will take two to three months to complete.
May 5 - BP caps a valve on one of the leaking drill pipes and sucessfully stops the flow of oil from that point, but two leaks still remain and the overall flow of oil has not been reduced.
May 6 - Oil begins to wash ashore on Louisiana's Chandeleur Islands. These barrier islands are part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge. BP attempts to place a containment dome over the leak, but crystalline gas hydrates clog the dome's opening and the attempt is unsuccessful.
May 7 - The fishing ban for federal waters off the Gulf Coast is expanded and extended through May 17.
May 9 - BP proposes stopping the leak by a method called "junk shot" where they would pump shreds of various materials such as old tires and golf balls into the leak at high pressure.
May 11/12 - Executives from BP, Transocean, and Halliburton appear at congressional hearings in Washington. Jeff Bingaman, senate energy committee chairman, reports that the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig was the result of a "cascade of errors, technical, human and regulatory". Workers attempted to lower two smaller containment domes over the oil, hoping they would be at lower risk for clogging. The project was eventually abandoned.
May 15 - BP workers successfully divert some oil and gas through a narrow mile-long tube inserted into the leaking well.
May 18 - The US nearly doubles the no-fishing zone in the Gulf waters affected by the spill. The area now contains about 19 percent of US controlled waters in the Gulf.
May 19 - The first heavy oil washes ashore in Louisiana's fragile marshlands. Much of the oil is caught in a strong current that could carry it to Florida and possibly farther.
May 26 - BP begins a "top kill" maneuver to stop the leak. They pump heavy fluids and other materials into the wellhead in an attempt to counter the pressure of the oil. Hopefully this will stifle the flow and eventually the leak will be sealed with cement.
May 27 - To aid with the "top kill" maneuver, workers implemet the "junk shot" method and inject larger objects into the leak.
May 29 - BP announces that their combination of techniques has failed to slow the flow of oil from the well and they abandon the project. They begin a new project to cut the riser from which the oil is leaking and cap it with pipes that will deliver the oil to storage ships. If successful, the cap will not capture all the oil and there is a chance that cutting the riser would result in a 20 percent increase in the flow of oil.
May 31 - US government and BP report that the spill may not be stopped until August.
June 1 - Hurricane season begins and concerns are raised about the spread of the spill.
June 2 - Thirty-one percent of US Gulf waters is now closed to fishing. Oil washes ashore on Mississippi and Alabama's barrier islands and is set to hit Florida as early as June 3.
June 4 - Oil begins washing up on Florida's beaches. A new cap placed over the oil plumes collects approximately 250,000 gallons of oil.
June 5 - The cap collects a larger amount of the leaking oil. Estimates say that about 441,000 gallons of oil were captured today. BP plans to gradually increase the amount of oil being captured.
June 7 - Officials report that the containment cap over the leak in the Gulf is collecting somewhere between one-third and three-quarters of the oil. BP says it plans to replace the cap collecting the oil with a slightly larger device next month. This newer cap will "provide a better, tighter fit" than the current one, but it will also allow the oil now being collected to leak into the Gulf during the changeover.
June 9 - BP reports that their oil collecting equipment is nearing its daily capacity. The company plans to burn some of the oil using an instrument called the EverGreen Burner. The machines uses 12 nozzles to turn a flow of oil and gas into a fog that can then be burned without producing a visible smoke.
June 12 - BP's cap installed on the blown-out well is capturing about 650,000 gallons of oil a day, but large quantities are still escaping into the sea. Pools of crude oil as much as 4 inches deep hit Alabama beach in waves and piles of dried oil extend onto beaches as much as 12 feet from the water's edge.
June 13 - Undersea sensors were deployed today in an effort to better track the amount of oil gushing into the sea. New estimates say the well could have been spewing as much as 2 million gallons of crude a day earlier this month before the cap started capturing some of the flow.
June 14 - A bolt of lightning struck the drill ship that was siphoning off oil from the blown-out will and ignited a fire that temporarily halted containment efforts.
June 16 - BP says it will suspend its dividend for the rest of this year and set up a $20 billion fund to assure compensation for victims of the Gulf oil spill. The British oil giant also will cut spending and sell some assets to deal with the cleanup and compensation costs.
June 17 - A relief well meant to stop the flow of oil is ahead of schedule and could reach its target in three to four weeks. The rig has drilled nearly 10,000 feet below the seafloor and should be within 10 feet of the existing well within weeks. The well will then bore down about 1,000 feet to intersect with the damaged well farther underground. Tony Hayward addresses the United States House Energy Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
June 18 - Large amounts of natural gas contained in crude oil escaping from the well could pose a serious threat to marine life by creating "dead zones" where oxygen is so depleted that nothing can live. At least 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas — and possibly almost twice that amount — have leaked since April 20.
June 22 - The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana