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Why did BP Reject Help by James Cameron?

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Much to the horror of the world, we all sat back on April 20, 2010, and watched with growing unease as one of the worst environmental catastrophes in U.S. history unfolded before our eyes in the media as an explosion rocked the BP-licensed Transocean drilling rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion and subsequent fire resulted in the deaths of 11 people and the injury of 17 others along with a five-mile-long oil slick due to a blowout preventer’s failure to activate. Two days later the rig itself would sink in 5,000 ft. of water. The gulf oil spill would continue to make headlines daily throughout the world.

Three days later on April 23 the U.S. Coast Guard would suspend its search-and-rescue operations for the missing and discover the rig upside down a quarter mile from what would become known as the faulty blowout preventer. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs would go on to glibly say, “I doubt this is the first accident that has happened, and I doubt it will be the last,” leaving most Americans in a state of utter shock. Over the next two days it was determined by the Coast Guard’s underwater cameras that the well was leaking 1,000 barrels of crude per day, and plans to stop the leak through the use of a remote underwater vehicle to go in and activate the blowout preventer were approved.

Little did they know it would end up proving to be far more difficult than anyone had imagined, and for weeks it appeared that the situation was going nowhere as BP continued to falter in its efforts to contain the mounting disaster. On April 28 it was determined that the flow of crude gushing into the gulf was now at a rate of 5,000 bpd (barrels per day) after a third leak was discovered, making the disaster five times greater than previously guesstimated. BP would admit that same day that their attempts to repair a hydraulic leak on the blowout preventer were unsuccessful and proving far more difficult than previously imagined.

Fast-forward a month to experts estimating that the crude being released into the gulf is more likely to be 20,000 to 100,000 bpd with no end in sight and Americans growing increasingly restless. Several more weeks would pass with coastal shorelines now being directly impacted when Hollywood’s James Cameron, best known for his hits Titanic and Avatar, attempted to come to the rescue – or so he thought. Mr. Cameron valiantly offered the use of his own submersibles to aid in the containment and repair efforts.

On June 1, 2010, Cameron had participated in a meeting at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, DC to aid in brainstorming for solutions to the gulf oil spill. Cameron said he offered to help the government and BP in dealing with the spill but that he was “graciously” turned away by BP with no explanation as to why. The following day at the All Things Digital technology conference he was quoted as saying, “Over the last few weeks I’ve watched, as we all have, with growing horror and heartache, watching what’s happening in the Gulf and thinking those morons don’t know what they’re doing.”

The question to this day remains why after over 40 days of dismal failure on BP’s part would they look a gift horse in the mouth? It had already been determined by the Obama administration days earlier that the price tag for this horrific disaster was going to be the hefty sum of $10 billion. What could they have possibly lost by accepting Cameron’s aid? Were they afraid that they would appear even more inept at the handling of the situation than they already were? There was little chance of that. Public opinion had already been formed weeks earlier. That ship had sailed, along with any hope of salvaging the petroleum giant’s reputation.

Days later BP would manage to successfully cap the well with a combination of golf balls, tire tread and cement, which sounds pretty jury-rigged even to us nonscientist types, but at least they got it done. They would, however, accept the help of another Hollywood bigwig weeks later in the form of Kevin Costner’s oil-water separation machines he personally developed with the help of his scientist brother through Ocean Therapy Solutions. He has invested $20 million of his own money since the early ‘90s on the project and had hoped to see them put to good use.

BP spokesman Bill Salvin confirmed the company had contracted with Costner and Ocean Therapy Solutions to use the machines saying, “We recognized they had potential and put them through testing, and that testing was done in shallow water and in very deep water, and we were very pleased by the results,” but declined to say why Cameron’s assistance was rejected. Around the same time BP was trying desperately to save face with a series of ad campaigns designed to lessen public outrage while agreeing to pay a $20 billion down payment towards losses sustained by victims of the catastrophe. It’s probably safe to say at this point that we will most likely never know the reasoning behind their refusal to accept the Oscar winning director’s help.


admin @ July 18, 2012

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