Mention the words “oil rig explosions,” and the BP oil disaster immediately comes to mind. The worst oil spill in U.S. history, according to government records, began on April 20, 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, about 40 miles off the Louisianlea coast. The fiery blast killed 11 workers and injured 17 others. The spewing oil was not capped until three months later.
In the meantime, oil drifted to the coasts of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Texas. White, sandy beaches along the 16,000 miles of coastland were littered with tarballs, which are clumps of weatherized oil, that caused the once-pristine beaches to shut down for weeks until they could be cleaned.
Dealing With After Effects
A maritime lawyer knows that the deceased and injured workers would be protected by The Jones Act. It’s a federal law that protects sea workers from the negligence of their employers. Among other things, it covers medical expenses, lost wages and living expenses. But where is the protection for other affected life forms?
Oil spills leave a devastating effect on aquatic life– fish, birds, and sea turtles are coated in the toxic substance and soon die if not immediately rescued. Ingesting toxic food in the ocean is also a reason why animals die. Sediment from the explosion settles on the ocean floor, ruining plant life and habitats of the marine animals, leaving them “homeless,” so to speak and awaiting death. According to DoSomething(dot)org, the BP spill caused the death of more than 8,000 birds, turtles and mammals, some of which were on an endangered species list.
It goes without saying that rig accidents also take its toll directly on the people who work on the structures, causing their death or severe bodily injury as a result of the explosion. Moreover, commercial fishing companies, business and property owners are indirectly affected because they lose money because their companies are shut down or properties are ruined because of the oil. Humans who eat seafood tainted by polluted water, unbeknownst to them, are also at high risk for physical or neurological problems.
Hope Comes Through Technology
In the midst of this oily darkness, a bright spot appears in the form of new technology designed to make drilling safer.
Technology in use now includes micro-drones, also called Micro-UAVs, which have aerial imaging technology that shows areas surrounding oil rigs with precise detail. Not only can a drone’s flexible camera spot actual leaks, the cameras show other places on the rig that may be in need of repair.
What seems to be growing in popularity is the use of thermal or gas cloud imaging cameras. These video cameras can determine what types of gases are leaking by allowing the viewer to see the infrared wavelengths which gases absorb. The cameras can also show in real time, from where the gas is leaking and the amount of gas leaking. Armed with this information, workers can find the leaks and repair them in rapid fashion.
Another benefit of these high-tech devices is that they can monitor the oil rigs 24 hours, seven days a week. A constant watch for potential gas leaks can prevent another large-scale oil spill from occurring.
The worldwide demand for oil is not going to decrease any time soon which means the potential for oil rig dangers remain. Though loss of valuable life can’t be replaced, humans remain protected for work related injuries. One maritime lawyer says his mission for accidents is “to find justice for injury claims and wrongful death in the offshore industry.” However, the accuracy and real-time information provided by new still evolving technology, has the potential to save human lives as well as ocean life.
Teresa Stewart investigated eco systems and ocean pollution to gather data for this article. She writes for those interested in new tech which will enable oil reaping to be safer in the future.
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
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