On 20 April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) drilling rig operating approximately 50 miles (80 km) off the coast of Louisiana experienced a catastrophic failure that resulted in the release of petroleum (oil and gas) and subsequent explosion and fire, the ultimate sinking of the rig, and a discharge of gas and light sweet crude oil from an ocean depth of nominally 5000 feet (1525 m). This tragic event was overshadowed with the loss of 11 men who were working on the rig at the time of the explosion.
The DWH spill was likely the largest in US history. The large oil and gas volumes released during the spill are part of a series of petroleum-related impacts suffered by the Gulf of Mexico, including the IXTOC I spill in 1979, the large-scale oil spillage during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and chronic annual releases due to ship activity, industry activity, and human use. The DWH spill resulted in petroleum and dispersants entering the Gulf of Mexico at varied concentration levels vertically and laterally, with a yet-to-be-determined impact on the ecosystems.
On 24 May 2010, BP committed $500 million over a 10-year period to fund an independent research program designed to study the impact of the oil spill on the environment and public health in the Gulf of Mexico. The goal of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is to improve society’s ability to understand and mitigate the impacts of hydrocarbon pollution and stressors on the marine environment. Knowledge accrued will be applied to restoration and improving the long-term environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico.
The scientific direction of GoMRI and funding decisions are being made by an independent Research Board comprising 20 marine science, education and public health experts. The initiative is being administered by the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GoMA). All data obtained through GoMRI will be shared openly through GRIIDC and results are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals with no requirement for BP approval. GoMRI funded activities produce educational resources, including hands-on student activities and lesson plans which are available online at education.gulfresearchintiative.org.
Detailed information about all projects, researchers and institutions that have received funding through GoMRI, and scientific peer-reviewed publications produced through this funding, are available online at research.gulfresearchinitiative.org