In May of 2003 a drilling riser break at a BP development well in 6015 feet (1875 m) of water in the Gulf of Mexico initiated a dialog between BP responders and NOAA/HAZMAT modelers about the potential consequences of a deep well blowout.

Human health and safety issues were the key concern for BP responders, particularly those planning potential on water operations. Where might the gas surface? Would the natural gas (propane and methane) at the water's surface pose an explosion or asphyxiation hazard? Was there a potential for the gas bubbles to sink any of the response vessels? These discussions did not have as cut-and-dry answers as either BP or NOAA would have preferred.

During the planning for BP's attempt to bring the well back into operation, the General NOAA Oil Modeling Environment (GNOME) with the Clarkson Deep Oil and Gas model (CDOG, Zheng et al 2003, Chen and Yapa 2003 and Yapa and Cheng 2004) were run. The data required for modeling a deep spill is more extensive then for a surface oil trajectory and was the subject of much discussion between BP responders and NOAA/HAZMAT. As a result, NOAA/HAZMAT created a data summary request sheet (Appendix 1) to guide the BP responders in what data was needed, and provided a point of discussion for implications of missing data.

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Author notes

1 Although released by NOAA, the information in this paper does not reflect, represent, or form any part of the support of the policies of NOAA or the Department of Commerce. Further, release by NOAA does not imply that NOAA or the Department of Commerce agree with the information contained herein.