In 2008, BP had already announced a plan to spend up to $2 billion to expand existing pipelines and build new connections to Gulf Coast refiners, with projected delivery up to 250,000 barrels 2012 (Hoovers 2010). The company also gained additional properties in the Gulf of Mexico. On April 20, 2010 a rig working less than 50 miles south of Louisiana exploded on the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Initial word from the U.S. Coast Guard was that no oil spill had resulted from the combustion. Briefly after the statement, the U.S. government announced 1,000 barrels of thick oil per day were spilling into the ocean. The preliminary estimate was soon changed to 42,000 gallons or 5,000 barrels per day. BP initially rejected those estimates, but was confronted with environmental assessments that revealed a spill potentially worse than the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. Events leading up to and subsequent to the spill are outlined in the following timeline (Elliot 2010):
April 20: at approximately 10:00 PM (CET) a fire was reported on the Deepwater Horizon rig, owned by Transocean Ltd. which was leased by lessor energy giant BP. On April 21, Transocean, Ltd. stated that there was no mention of the spill, despite eleven workers killed on site.
April 22: Coast Guard spokeswoman Katherine McNamara indicates disaster level spill. BPs chief executive, Tony Hayward, tells the public that Bp is responding with "everything in our power to contain this oil spill and resolve the situation as rapidly, safely and effectively as possible." The rig sinks.
April 27: After underwater robots fail in an attempt to stop the flow of oil. The U.S. Coast Guard attempts to trap the oil in containment booms, and then set it on fire. BP indicates that it will commence drilling of a new relief well near the spill site, but completion of the process could take months.
In a communication from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair