BP plc. is a worldwide British-based energy company and ranks as the as the third largest energy company and also the fourth largest business enterprise in the world (BP Plc. 2010). BP plc. Is an oil and petrochemicals company which currently explores for and produces oil and natural gas, refines crude oil, markets oil and petroleum products and supplies petroleum products worldwide[1]. The company is also involved in the generation of solar energy, manufacturing and marketing of chemicals to various end users. BP's produces chemicals such as terephthalic acid, acetic acid, acrylonitrile, polyethylene and ethylene. Over years, BP’s operations has suffered loss from oil spills especially from it offshore drilling stations. Recently, Oil from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico began to wash ashore along the Gulf Coast after the 20th April 2010 explosion of the deep-water offshore rig that killed 11 people. The disaster which involved a leaking deep water oil well has caused damage to a large area of marine environment killings sea life and affecting countless numbers of birds (Bowman, 2010)

Oil spill and debate on offshore drilling of oil

Despite some progress being made in effort of containing the spill, debate has emerged whether the benefits of offshore drilling of oil outweighs it cost (Abraxton, 2010).  This debate comes up as experts and environmentalist are expressing fear that such spills will lead to environmental tragedies that might greatly harm the marine and wildlife habitats.

Environmentalists in the United State have used the recent oil spill tragedy to rally people against the expansion and operations off shore drilling in the coastal waters. The opponents of offshore rigging are calling for the reinstating of the moratorium over offshore rigging in the United States. The debate against offshore drilling gained momentum after the White House announced that it will freeze off shore drilling expansion while investigations where underway to probe the cause of the BP’s Louisiana oil spill (Abraxton, 2010).

In spite of the ongoing debate and the potential hazards that offshore drilling of oil has, it is less likely that much benefit can be accrued from ceasing to explore and drill oil offshore. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the benefits of offshore drilling can be felt if BP changes it means of averting possible oil spills now and in the future.

Oil spill

Oil spill, a form of pollution is an unplanned release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment as a result of human activity. This term is often used when referring to marine oil spills, where oil is accidentally released into the coastal waters or oceans. Oil spills can also occur as result of releases of crude oil from tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs and spillage of refined petroleum products or their by-products. The term also covers the release of heavier fuels utilized by large ships such as bunker fuel. Though not likely, oil may finds it way to the marine environment from natural oil seepages under the sea or ocean beds (Fingas & Charles 2001).On the other hand, over the years, the number of incidences of oil spill due to BP’s operation has declined in number as show below.

Decline of Oil spill cases in BP [map]. (2010) Retrieved from[2]

The cost of Oil spills

When the BP’s deep water Horizon oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, it killed 11 workers and released thousands of barrels of oil into the ocean. The well is said to be gushing oil at an estimated rate of 5,000 barrels per day. The rig exploder following what was termed as the failure of the blowout prevention system. The growing oil slick menace is expected to cause injurious effects on fisheries and wildlife would be substantial and could be felt for a long time even after cleanup of the oil has taken place (Bowman, 2010).

Oil spill in the water can potentially ignite fire while the presence of slick could cause dangerous fumes upon ignition which can harm workers of offshore rigging stations. Ships also face potential hazards from fires and have the additional risk of interfering with oil cleanup operations in the sea. Wind and currents have been noted to aid with the spread of oil that leak into waterways and the oceans and thereby frustrating cleanup efforts.

When oil mixes with water, it forms a composition known as “mousse". Mouse is a sticky substance that clings on marine life as well as birds when they come into contact with. This can cause hypothermia and drowning of birds as the oil cover reduces the insulating capabilities of feathers as well as making the birds unable to fly.

Despite that fact that oil spill do occur from time to time, its harmful effect does not warrant the banning of offshore drilling. Instead, organizations such as BP need to invest of coming up with measure to prevent and effectively reduce the effects caused by Oil spills. There are numerous ways and techniques of cleaning oil spill which include physical, chemical and biological means that have been found to be effective and less harmful to the environment (Joana, 1994). Furthermore, it has been found that it is cheaper to explore and drill oil offshore rather than importing oil especially at a time when the demand for oil in the US has gone up and thus BP’s drilling operations will help cut cost on imports of oil and petroleum products.

US oil consumption [map] (2010) Retrieved from[3]

Benefits of Offshore drilling of oil

Lately, opponents of offshore drilling have cited the case of BP’s oil spill as prove that offshore drilling is inherently dangerous, and not deserving the risk. Such critics see the blowout as grounds for reinstating of the recently lifted moratorium on offshore drilling by the United states in parts of the outer continental shelf (Bailey, 2010). Recent studies by Robert Hahn and Peter Passell (2009) reveals that the benefits of producing offshore oil greatly outweigh the costs. In their work, Hahn and Passell looked at three categories of benefits: producer revenues, lower prices to consumers, and less variation in oil prices. On the cost side of the ledger they found out that it would cost $17 per barrel to produce offshore oil at $50 per barrel and $20 per barrel at $100 per barrel (Bailey, 2010).  These include an approximation of harm caused by greenhouse emission produced by burning the oil as fuel, and the direct costs of local air pollution.

Offshore drilling has the potential of providing thousands or even millions of barrels of oil as well as thousand cubic feet of natural gas and compared to onshore drilling of oil. In some areas offshore drilling rigs can be turned into artificial reefs once they are dry. This will significantly cut down on cost apart from providing shelter for thousands of species of fish and other marine life (Fontova, 2008).

Employment benefits have been accrued from offshore drilling installations as companies like BP employs individuals work offshore. Such employment has helped raise the Gross Domestic Product of countries where the rigs are located,  

Proposal of change and its implementation

BP’s response to the oil spill issue discloses the fact that it has no plans to cease the drilling of oil along the coast of the united states. Yet, their success in the Oil industry calls for change in ways and means of monitoring and averting possible catastrophes associated with oil spill. In this regard, BP needs to consider effecting technological and policy measures aimed at combatting future oil spills and its associated effects.

BP needs to adopt a present a model that prescribes effective response to an oil spill instance during its operations. The model will guide the company in recovering from and averting the effects of oil spill. The model approach to oil spill response includes three levels of decision making-strategic, tactical, and operational. This system aims at ensuring that that equipment, material and personnel are positioned appropriately to allow timely response.

Strategic component of the model will see that BP determines appropriate locations for storing resources in the right quantity so that the company has adequate capability to deal with future oils spills. At the tactical level, the model prescribes the use of  response systems for any particular oil spill that has occurred and entails decisions such as which components to dispatch, how many, and when (Wilhelm & Srinivasa, 1997 ). Adoption of this model will require training and sensitization of BP’s works force of managing oil spills effectively using the stipulated model. This will call for workshop and training for workers at all levels of the company.

The possibility of occurrence of frequent marine oil spills signalizes the need for an efficient method of oil slick detection and surveillance. A more effective means for localizing a spill and evaluating its magnitude is the use of airborne remote sensing systems. This involves the use of low flying aircrafts to perform reconnaissance so as to detect and map the extent of oil. In this regard, BP will have to acquire both the equipment and expertise required to run and manage the remote sensing operations (Ohlsson & Axelsson, 1973).

Conclusion

Despite the challenges and risks of offshore drilling of oil, its utilization for production of oil remains justified amidst calls to shut down such offshore facilities. It has been shown that, production of oil through drilling by companies like BP helps countries like the united States to cut cost on importation. Furthermore, offshore drilling installation provides employment and when discontinued from work, oil rigs have been used to act as reefs.  BP however needs to change its ways of monitoring, evaluation and fighting oil spill should they occur. BP’s proactive move on matters regarding oil will not only ensure sales and growth of the company, but also assure the world that it is concerned with environmental protection. This will in the end ensure that proven approaches and technology are used to raise alert and deal with oil spills as this will guarantee safely the coastal waters and its associated marine life.

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