Deepwater Disaster: The Untold Story looks at the reasons it took 87 days to contain the massive oil spill that followed the April 2010 explosion which killed 11 and sank the Deepwater Horizon oil rig 66 km off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.

This 2010 documentary from the BBC’s Horizon program features interviews with many of the key players in the increasingly desperate attempts to contain the greatest environmental disaster in US history, almost 20 times greater than the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Four different strategies were tried and failed, until a fifth last-ditch effort finally succeeded.

Deepwater Disaster: The Untold Story charts the discrepancy between BP’s public statements of confidence in its efforts and the internal expert assessments of the likely success of each successive plan. As the saga drags on, the official estimate of the amount of oil spilling into the ocean rises from 1000 barrels of oil a day to 5000, then 10,000, then 20,000, then 30,000. It has since been estimated an average 53,000 barrels of oil were released each day – a total of 4.9 million barrels – with severe consequences for marine and coastal life, and the livelihoods of those working in Louisiana’s fishing and tourism industries.

Veteran well killer Pat Campbell, the head of Wild Well Control who was involved in the work to put out 700 oil wells set alight in¬†Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1991, describes that effort as “about 1000 per cent easier” than the single well located 1500 metres beneath the surface of the ocean.

Others interviewed include Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer; Admiral Thad Allen, the US National Incident Commander; and Charlie Henry, the NOAA’s Scientific Support Coordinator.

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