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The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill:
What Happened? Where do we go from Here

The oil slick as seen from space by NASA's Terra satellite on May 24. Image: NASAThe Macondo well, now known as the site of the nation’s largest oil spill, erupted on April 20, 2010, approximately 40 miles off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the next 50 days, BP’s oil platform, Deepwater Horizon, poured an estimated 4 million barrels (approximately 170 million gallons) of raw petroleum into the Gulf. Throughout the early days of the spill, accurate information in all forms was scarce, challenging a recovery response commensurate with the scale of the accident. With the well now capped, there is still incomplete information about the spill itself, as well as the temporal nature of and ecological consequences associated with the leaked oil.  Also still uncalculated are the social costs that have been and will continue to be incurred by the thousands of individuals, businesses, and communities that make the Gulf coast their home.

One month after the well’s closure, given the likely continuance of oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico via super deepwater drilling and oil recovery technology, stocktaking is warranted. On September 28, 2010 we will hold a forum to review what happened, and discuss how to move ahead and learn from the experience. The symposium will feature presentations on the nature of the spill and the role of information deficit in determining the state and federal government’s and public and private sectors’ reactions to it.  In addition, there will be discussion of how, with better information and more effective risk assessment and pre-disaster planning, public trust can be restored in this new era of energy exploration.


The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill:
What Happened? Where do we go from Here

Tuesday, September 28, 2010, 1:30-5:30pm
Reception to follow at 5:30pm
MIT Media Lab, E14-674, 75 Amherst Street, Cambridge, MA

An MIT Forum Sponsored by:  Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT Energy Initiative, Center for Global Change Science and MIT School of Science


1:20 - 1:30pm :: Welcome

1:30 - 3:00pm :: "Perspectives on the Unfolding Spill: What happened, coping with the oil, evidence of the environmental impacts of the event"

Moderator: Maria Zuber
Eric Adams (Lecturer, Civil and Environmental Engineering) – Plumes and mixing
Elizabeth Kujawinski (Associate Scientist, Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, WHOI) -- Dispersants
Alex Slocum (Professor, Mechanical Engineering) -- Engineering processes for stopping the spill
Jerry Milgram (Professor Emeritus, Mechanical Engineering) -- Oil spill collection

3:00 - 3:15pm :: Break

3:15 - 4:15pm :: "Planning the Response: Establishing the impacts and identifying the parties at risk"

Moderator: Amy Glasmeier
Wyman Briggs (Preparedness Specialist, US Coast Guard) – Preparedness and response
Earthea Nance (Assistant Professor, Department of Urban Studies, University of New Orleans)
James Dien Bui (Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation) – Organizing a coalition of fish/seafood harvesters

4:15 - 5:15pm :: "Moving Ahead:  Engineering Challenges of Deep Water Drilling and Future Oil Resource Recovery"

Moderator: Andrew Whittle
Nancy Leveson (Professor, Aeronautics and Astronautics)  -- Reducing accidents in the oil and gas industry
Roland Pellenq (Visiting Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering), -- Materials
Kim Vandiver (Dean for Undergraduate Research & Professor, Mechanical Engineering) -- Drilling and production in deepwater 

5:15 - 5:30pm :: Wrap up: "Engaging the Public About Environmental Challenges of Future Resource Recovery in  Complex Contexts"

Moderator: Andrew Whittle
Tom Malone (The Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence)