Off the Louisiana coast, a controlled burn of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill sends towers of fire hundreds of meters into the air over the Gulf of Mexico on June 9, 2010.

Photograph by Petty Officer First Class John Masson

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  • On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded. It sank two days later. Eleven people died in the explosion, which triggered an oil spill that, as of April 2014, is the worst environmental disaster in American history.
    The Deepwater Horizon was a multinational organization. The sophisticated platform was built by a South Korean company, Hyundai Heavy Industries. It was owned by a Switzerland-based company, Transocean, and registered by the Marshall Islands. BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, leased the Deepwater Horizon. The Macondo Prospect, where the platform was drilling, is an oil field in the U.S. sector of the Gulf of Mexico, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) off the Louisiana coast.
    Survivors of the Deepwater Horizon explosion say it was caused by a build-up of pressure as natural gas surged from the well, deep beneath the seafloor. The well continued to gush oil into the Gulf, at a rate of about 62,000 oil barrels a day, for 87 days.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    disaster Noun

    terrible and damaging event.

    drill Verb

    to make a hole using a rotating digging tool.

    gush Verb

    to flow suddenly and forcefully.

    jetty Noun

    structure protecting a harbor or inlet from a larger body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: jetty
    lease Verb

    to rent, or buy for use during a specific time period.

    multinational organization Noun

    groups of nations concerned with a political, economic, or environmental cause.

    natural gas Noun

    type of fossil fuel made up mostly of the gas methane.

    Encyclopedic Entry: natural gas
    offshore Adjective

    having to do with facilities or resources located underwater, usually miles from the coast.

    oil Noun

    fossil fuel formed from the remains of marine plants and animals. Also known as petroleum or crude oil.

    oil barrel Noun

    unit of measurement for oil and other petroleum products in the United States equal to 159 liters or 42 gallons. Abbreviated bbl.

    oil field Noun

    region with a large number of oil wells or other extractive technologies.

    oil platform Noun

    large, elevated structure with facilities to extract and process oil and natural gas from undersea locations.

    oil spill Noun

    accidental release of petroleum products into a body of water, either by an oil tanker or an offshore oil rig.

    seafloor Noun

    surface layer of the bottom of the ocean.

    sophisticated Adjective

    knowledgeable or complex.

    surge noun, verb

    sudden, strong movement forward.