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Anyone Remember Mexico’s Ixtoc I Spill?

We were wondering, given all the hysteria about the BP oil leak, why don’t we hear it compared to some of the other oil spills in history, besides the Exxon Valdez.

The website, History’s 10 Most Famous Oil Spills may give us a clue:

Ixtoc I

The 2-mile-deep exploratory well, Ixtoc I, blew out on June 3, 1979 in the Bay of Campeche off Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico. By the time the well was brought under control in March, 1980, an estimated 140 million gallons of oil had spilled into the bay. The Ixtoc I spill is currently #2 on the all-time list of largest oil spills of all time.

When was the last time you ever heard any mention of Ixtoc I?

From Wikipedia:

Ixtoc I

Ixtoc I was an exploratory oil well in the Bay of Campeche of the Gulf of Mexico, about 100 km (62 mi) northwest of Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche in waters 50 m (160 ft) deep. On 3 June 1979, the well suffered a blowout and is recognized as the second largest oil spill and the largest accidental spill in history.

Mexico’s government-owned oil company Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos) was drilling a 3 km (1.9 mi) deep oil well, when the drilling rig lost drilling mud circulation

The oil and gas fumes exploded on contact with the operating pump motors, starting a fire which led to the collapse of the drilling tower. The collapse caused damage to underlying well structures. The damage to the well structures led to the release of significant quantities of oil in to the ocean.

In the next nine months, experts and divers (including Red Adair) were brought in to contain and cap the oil well. Approximately an average of ten thousand to thirty thousand barrels per day were discharged into the Gulf until it was finally capped on 23 March 1980.

Prevailing currents carried the oil towards the Texas coastline. The US government had two months to prepare booms to protect major inlets.

Eventually, in the US, 162 miles of beaches and 1421 birds were affected by 3,000,000 barrels of oil. Mexico rejected US requests to be compensated for cleanup costs

That is to say Ixtoc I released more than 1 billion pounds of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The most dire projections for the Deepwater Horizon leak, is that it could release somewhere between 7,000 to 10,000 tonnes.

The flow rate for Ixtoc I was an average of 10,000 to 30,000 barrels per day. The flow rate for the Deepwater Horizon leak is currently calculated at 5,000 barrels a day.

Note that it took more than nine months to stop this leak. Also, notice that Mexico refused to pay for any damages to the US.

Still, by all measures thirty years ago Ixtoc I leaked far more oil for a far longer time – nine months – than the Deepwater Horizon is projected to leak under even the most nightmarish scenarios. And yet somehow the Gulf Of Mexico seems to have survived.

Which is probably why we don’t hear much about Ixtoc I in the news these days.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, May 17th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

14 Responses to “Anyone Remember Mexico’s Ixtoc I Spill?”

  1. mr_bill says:

    I’ll bet that nerobama can’t wait to give Mexico a bunch of our money for oil that doesn’t even reach the shores of their sh**ty country.

  2. GetBackJack says:

    Dammit – the inclusion of this article does not fit the Media-Narrative. When it goes down the Memory Hole it’s supposed to stay down the Memory Hole. Sheesh.


  3. proreason says:

    Steve spends too much time fiddling with his ipods, blackberries and xbox’s.

    It isn’t helping the country heal from the bushitler nightmare.

  4. Right of the People says:

    But those spills were before The Anointed Won’s exalted reign and therefore are not worth mentioning. Don’t you know that everything before 1/20/2009 has no relevance in today’s world? Those were the dark times or BO (Before Obama) and the age of enlightenment he has bestowed upon the groveling masses.

    If he deems if worthy of his attention he will just wave his magic wand and the problem with cease to exist (at least in the media).

    All hail Comrade Oblah-blah, beneficent ruler of the United Socialist State of Amerika. Oblah-blah the magnificent, Oblah-blah the kind, Oblah-blah the just, Oblah-blah the wise. All bow down.

    (Gag!) On a lighter note, has anyone noticed that spellcheck doesn’t recognize the work Obama. Just like us.

  5. Rusty Shackleford says:

    Hey, what happens in Kuwait, STAYS in Kuwait.

    I think after coming here I can easily state that the MSM has demonstrated its agenda consistently. I have done my part to get others to come here and just read, not necessarily participate.

    For me, I stopped watching any mainstream news a decade ago. I knew they are slanted. But what’s so horrible is one) that they are on a one way train to their own destruction and two) they can’t stop. They are addicted to wagging the dog.

    This in itself is not horrible as they need to self-destruct at this point, but the part that is excruciatingly painful is the fact that many lives were lost to the redcoats for exercising the simple right to print the truth about what was happening in the colonies under King George. If they saw what the news agencies did today, they would surely weep. And that is a crime. A crime against the people; A crime against truth.

  6. ulysses says:

    You’ve got several facts wrong. I’ll assume that was unintentional.
    1. The largest oil spill in the history of the world, in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991, was 900 million LITERS of oil, or 10-11 million barrels. Still a hell of a lot of oil, but overstating things only helps your case if your target audience is the uninformed.
    2. It’s a point of debate, but I believe that series of oil spills was caused by US airstrikes, not set intentionally by the Iraqis. Just because Saddam was an RBG (Really Bad Guy) doesn’t mean every bad thing that ever happened was done by him.
    3. The exact size of the Horizon spill is unknown, but nobody (and I do mean nobody) believes it’s really the 5,000 barrels per day that BP is claiming. Even they say that number is completely unreliable. Most qualified estimates fall between 10,000 and 100,000 with the broadest consensus around 25,000 to 30,000 barrels per day. This is still speculative, but it’s generally assumed that this spill has already surpassed Qixtoc I’s 10-month spill after only 1 month.
    4. This spill is different from Qixtoc I because of its proximity to the Loop Current, which has already carried oil over to near the Florida Keys. Once it reaches the southern end of Florida, the Gulf Stream will carry some of it around the bend, up the Eastern seaboard, across the North Atlantic, into Europe and the Arctic. The effects of this spill will be global. The oil spilled into the Persian Gulf (which is not called the Arabian Gulf) caused huge environmental devastation, but it was confined to a relatively smaller area. Same is true to a lesser extent of Quixtoc I. It was limited to the Gulf of Mexico, which is still a pretty huge area.
    5. The Gulf of Mexico WAS devastated by the 1979-1980 Quixtoc I spill. In case you haven’t been paying attention for the past 30 years, the Gulf of Mexico has been in very poor condition with all kinds of problems including dead zone and massive threats to numerous species. This is due to a number of factors including agricultural runoff from the Mississippi River flowing into the Gulf, but it is also largely due to numerous oil spills. The fact that there are still a few animals living in the area doesn’t negate the fact that many, many animals were killed by the 1979 spill and that many people had their livelihood disrupted. Everything isn’t just fine. This is a big deal. If you think it isn’t, then you’re not what we call “conservative.”

    • Steve says:

      I was basing my comments on this site, which seems to be fairly credible:

      History’s 10 Most Famous Oil Spills

      Arabian Gulf Spills

      Beginning in late January of the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi Army destroyed tankers, oil terminals, and oil wells in Kuwait, causing the release of about 900,000,000 barrels of oil. This was the largest oil spill in history.

      But other sites, such as the US Government’s NOAA site, give far smaller numbers:

      IncidentNews: 10 Famous Spills

      Arabian Gulf Spills

      During the 1991 Gulf War, tankers and oil terminals in Kuwait were destroyed, causing the release of an estimated 6-8 million barrels (252 – 336 million gallons) of oil into the waters of the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. Many oil wells in Kuwait were destroyed and set on fire, resulting in the release of much greater amounts of oil and combustion products to land, air, and water in Kuwait.

      And even Wikipedia says:

      Gulf War oil spill – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      Estimates on the volume spilled usually range around 11 million barrels (462 million gallons.)

      It would seem, however, that the first site is off in its numbers by a factor of ten. So I’m going to correct the original article. Thank you for noting the error.

      “It’s a point of debate, but I believe that series of oil spills was caused by US airstrikes”

      I believe this is nonsense. Again, from Wikipedia (citing sources):

      Iraqi forces opened valves at the Sea Island oil terminal and dumped oil from several tankers into the Persian Gulf. The apparent strategic goal was to foil a potential landing by US Marines.

      The immediate reports from Baghdad said that American air strikes had caused a discharge of oil from two tankers. Coalition forces determined the main source of oil to be the Sea Island terminal in Kuwait. American airstrikes on January 26 destroyed pipelines to prevent further spillage into the Persian Gulf. Several other sources of oil were found to be active: tankers and a damaged Kuwaiti oil refinery near Mina Al Ahmadi, tankers near Bubiyan Island, and Iraq’s Mina Al Bakr terminal.

      Again, thanks for the correction — but your agenda is showing.

    • proreason says:

      The key facts are clear.

      Horizon is a tragedy, but it is hardly unprecedented.

      With all we know about it now, why has Obama done nothing to contain the damage? Plans have been in place since the mid-90’s. As we sit today, the feds are still blocking Louisiana from taking action to prevent damage so that “environmental studies” can be made. It’s as if the government had prevented action after Katrina for 45 days until they could determine that the hurricane had ended.

      Even if the mid-90’s plans had fallen into disuse, the lack of federal response is shocking. A boy scout would have known to form a team of experts from around the world to brainstorm solutions and oversee responses. Every expert in the field, from private businesses, academia, and government, should have been on-call and participating in discussion groups. A cabinet secretary should have been relieved of other duties to oversee the response.

      Instead, the administrations primary activity has been 2 things….putting it’s “boot on BP’s throat”, and later, insisting that BP “plug the damn leak”.

      It’s a national disgrace.

      And it’s such demonstration of overwhelming incompetance that the man at the top should be impeached.

    • proreason says:

      And here is Peggy Noonan’s brilliant commentary on the worst President the country has every had….BY FAR, and his tragic failure of leadership with BP accident.

      “I don’t see how the president’s position and popularity can survive the oil spill. This is his third political disaster in his first 18 months in office. And they were all, as they say, unforced errors, meaning they were shaped by the president’s political judgment and instincts.

      There was the tearing and unnecessary war over his health-care proposal and its cost. There was his day-to-day indifference to the views and hopes of the majority of voters regarding illegal immigration. And now the past almost 40 days of dodging and dithering in the face of an environmental calamity. I don’t see how you politically survive this.

      The president, in my view, continues to govern in a way that suggests he is chronically detached from the central and immediate concerns of his countrymen…. The heart of the country is thinking each day about A, B and C, and he is thinking about X, Y and Z. They’re in one reality, he’s in another….

      The American people have spent at least two years worrying that high government spending would, in the end, undo the republic. They saw the dollars gushing night and day, and worried that while everything looked the same on the surface, our position was eroding. They have worried about a border that is in some places functionally and of course illegally open, that it too is gushing night and day with problems that states, cities and towns there cannot solve. .

      And now we have a videotape metaphor for all the public’s fears: that clip we see every day, on every news show, of the well gushing black oil into the Gulf of Mexico and toward our shore.”


      Peggy is, of course, being kind to say The Menace is “chronically detached” She knows full well that he isn’t detached in the least. As she says, he is simply attached to things that the country is not attached to. He is “chronically attached” to recking retribution on white, racist, capitalist, individualist America for its sins.

  7. BigOil says:

    Ulysses – You don’t hesitate to place speculation on a level with facts. Like most liberals, emotion eventually trumps logic. Lets take look at couple of your points:

    Most qualified estimates fall between 10,000 and 100,000 with the broadest consensus around 25,000 to 30,000 barrels per day.

    What you call qualified estimates are also known as SWAG’s (scientific wild ass guesses). What we do know is the leak is a two phase mixture of gas and liquid. We do not know the percentages of gas and liquid in the leaking stream. We also do not know the size of the restriction in the broken pipe and stuck valve. A technology does not exist to measure two phase flow.

    In the end, you are left with nothing but your eyeball as a measuring device. A mixed phase stream can be very impressive to the naked eye and cover a tremendously large area, despite containing very little material. A consensus of SWAG’s is still just a SWAG.

    This spill is different from Qixtoc I because of its proximity to the Loop Current, which has already carried oil over to near the Florida Keys. Once it reaches the southern end of Florida, the Gulf Stream will carry some of it around the bend, up the Eastern seaboard, across the North Atlantic, into Europe and the Arctic.

    Certainly you are not referring to the tarballs in the Florida Keys that were rushed to the lab and found to be from natural sources.

    Even if the loop current catches the oil, I would argue it is a good thing. Dispersion and dilution is the best solution. BP has been applying a dispersant to the oil to break it up. In smaller concentrations, the oil can be consumed by micro-organisms. As some of the oil moves off with the current, it is further diluted and provides additional opportunity for consumption. Oil refineries use this same principle. Bio-reactors are used to consume small concentrations of oil dispersed in effluent water streams.

    On the other hand, if the oil ends up coating the entire northern hemisphere, you can give back and help save the planet by being the first volunteer to scrub the oil from a polar bear.

  8. jobeth says:

    “Once it reaches the southern end of Florida, the Gulf Stream will carry some of it around the bend, up the Eastern seaboard, across the North Atlantic, into Europe and the Arctic.”

    Oh my! Panic!

    Its almost laughable to think of the implication that this will cause an oil slick that would spread over all those miles…Oh the panic!

    Those white cliffs of Dover will soon be in danger of being the black cliffs of Dover. And I can’t wait to see black ice bergs. That will probably increase tourism so maybe this is a good thing after all. lol

    ahh there is nothing more entertaining than the lib mind…especially when it comes to the environment.

  9. jimmyb3 says:

    What’s laughable is all this ad hoc ergo hoc reasoning that suggest you all show up at ‘patriot tea parties.’

    Obama has actually been at work on this problem, his failure is political. He forgot he lives in a country that likes good acting from its leaders, especially the kind of people who think Reagan was the greatest president, because he played one on TV, and broke every promise the tea party raves about(raised taxes, increased spending, increased the debt, talked to our enemies, etc). Obama failed to be on TV showing us he was working on the problem. He failed to stand on rubble and land on air craft carrier. He also made the mistake of trusting private industry and free market, something I hear a lot about.

    The seriousness of this spill is the rate of the leak, two months in and already, even by the lowest estimates, already 2/3rds the Ixtoc spill. By the highest estimate already has surpassed Ixtoc. And remember if we’re looking at a 9 month time frame, the scale becomes daunting.

    It’s not as easy as saying this happened it can happen again, to say so is to ignore all the variables in the equation. The location of this well vis a vis Ixtoc makes a huge difference. The wind and currents are different, the habitat effect is different. The ecosystems in danger are different. The economic structure of the region is different. Youre also talking about Ixtoc happened in waters less than 200 feet deep, you can access, contain and clean a spill like that easier because 200 feet is not an impossible depth for human action. Deepwater is happening at depths humans can’t go to in anymore than an observing role. Underwater plumes, spawing grounds, fishing grounds, all that wasn’t a factor in Ixotic.

    If you haven’t heard about it before now, it’s probably because like most ‘tea party patriots’ you didn’t give two cents about the world outside your credit bought middle class bourgeois existence until you lost your job your mortage went under and a secret kenyan muslim stole the election from its rightful owners. Knowing about the Ixotic spill, not just finding out it happened on WIKIPEDIA-that hallowed institution of fact, is exactly why some of us are even more worried about Deepwater.

    • Liberals Make Great Speedbumps says:

      “is exactly why some of us are even more worried about Deepwater.

      Well if someone of your stature is worried jimmyb3…..

  10. jimmyb3 says:

    What does that even mean? That is the most assine statement I ever heard. You might as well throw in a classic Beavis and Butthead laugh for full measure.

    The only difference between progressives and ‘tea party patriots’ is the things you chose to make light of and illogically explain away to maintain your neophyte views of the world. We need real liberals and conservatives(ie adults) to run this country and move on and tea parties can have the internets.

    Some of us, includes everyone except BP, oil workers, and ‘tea party patriots.’

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