NEW ORLEANS — Six years after the death of 11 employees, the accidental release of three million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and $61 billion dollars in clean-up efforts and fines, BP is once more reliving and dealing with the ramifications of the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster.

Except this time it is not a government agency or a district court grilling the energy giant over what transpired that fateful April 20, 2010, but Hollywood.

Deepwater Horizon, consumed in flames, towers above the Gulf of Mexico
Deepwater Horizon, consumed in flames, towers above the Gulf of Mexico | Ilustracja

Acclaimed director Peter Berg, working with Lions Gate Productions, teamed up with Mark Wahlberg to bring the tragic events of that night to the big screen. The movie captures the ordeal faced by those working aboard the high-tech drilling platform, but centers primarily on the actions of Wahlberg’s character Mike Williams, who was a real systems analyst working for Transocean, a Swedish company that owned the rig. 

The antagonist in the movie, besides the exploding oil platform, is the BP-employed rig manager, Donald Vidrine, who is depicted by John Malkovich as condescending and more concerned about schedules and profits than the lives of those on Deepwater Horizon.  

However, BP notes that the movie is highly flawed. The Energy Voice, a trade publication focused on the exploration and acquirement of oil, quotes Geoff Morrell, BP senior vice president of U.S. communications and external affairs, “The Deepwater Horizon movie is Hollywood’s take on a tragic and complex accident. It is not an accurate portrayal of the events that led to the accident, our people or the character of our company.”

The Wall Street Journal ran an article stating that BP has every right to worry about how it is depicted in the film. Similar crusading movies have resulted in corporations targeted by film plots spending millions upon millions of dollars on public relations campaigns that usually come on top of already imposed heavy fines and higher costs tied to increased government regulations.

At the time of its construction, the Journal reports, Deepwater was a state-of-the-art facility utilizing “space age technology” and possessing industry leading safety measures. The massive platform was the length of a football field and stood hundreds of feet above the water. It took a crew of 126 people from three different companies to run the rig. Drilling off the coast of Louisiana in the cavernous depths of an underwater region called the Mississippi Canyon, Deepwater was nearing the end of excavation at a depth of slightly more than 35,000 feet when a sudden rush of sea water, mud and methane gas shot up the line connected to the sea bottom and into the rig. 

The concussive force of the blast sent workers flying and caused significant damage to the platform and structures. Moments later, the erupting mixture became a geyser of pure gas, causing fires to erupt and explosions to rock the facility.

All of Deepwater’s safety measures failed during the event, either because they were knocked out by the initial blast and explosions or simply did not perform properly. This failure resulted in millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf and coating the shores of Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states with inches of oil.

Brunswick Group LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting group advising BP, was asked to provide more specifics about the movie’s inaccuracies. Brunswick partner Ellen Moskowitz said her client “has no comment beyond the statement” released by Morrell on the day of the film’s premiere.

In that statement, Morrell indicates that the blame for what happened had to be shared by Transocean and services contractor Halliburton. The movie, the BP official states, "ignores the conclusions reached by every official investigation: that the accident was the result of multiple errors made by a number of companies." 

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