Energy Excursions

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Macondo Well Case Study

“Now that we have gained a better understanding of the critical steps and processes needed to ensure subsurface containment for oil and gas wells, let’s take an excursion to the offshore Gulf of Mexico to examine a case where several of these protocols were not followed and devastating consequences ensued.” 


This lesson takes a deep dive into the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the Macondo well blowout, a disastrous loss of containment in the subsurface, resulting in a rig explosion, a large oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and a tragic loss of life. Motivation for this lesson is to understand how in April of 2010 the integrity of the well was compromised due to a number of failures. As a result of the blowout, a number of safety and regulatory changes were instituted to prevent similar disasters in the future. This lesson is a capstone lesson for this course, pulling together vocabulary, concepts, and understandings from previous lessons and applying them to this case study of the Macondo Well blowout. The learner is asked to critically evaluate some of the failures in light of their newfound knowledge.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn the background of the Deepwater Horizon and Macondo Prospect 
    • Deepwater Horizon Rig   
    • Location   
    • Companies/parties involved 
  • Gain an understanding of the events that happened leading up to the explosion 
    • Displacement of Mud from Drillpipe and Upper Wellbore  
    • Spacer Material
    • Pressure Tests
    • Displacement of Mud from the Riser
    • Diverter System Route
    • Blowout Preventer
    • Equipment Failures
    • Poor Decision Making    
  • Gain an understanding of the events that happened following the explosion 
    • Oil Spill
    • Natural Resource Trustee Council
    • Affected Gulf Resources
      •  Habitat
      • Fish and Wildlife
    • Legal and Financial Accountability
  • Reflect on the Engineering Code of Ethics established by professional organizations and the importance of having the safety and well-being of the public as an important professional tenet
  • Take a closer look at and learn some of the offshore rig safety procedures that were adopted as a result of the Macondo Blowout 
    • Advancements in Technology 
    • Actions Immediately After the Spill
    • Adopted Safety Procedures and Environmental Requirements
Oklahoma Academic Standards
TEKS Standards
College Board Units and Topics
Next Generation Science Standards