History of the Ixtoc Oil Spill

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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From the birth of the age of oil till the late 1970’s, environmental problems due to oil were mostly contained within the small area they originated and usually never received national media coverage. In the past, early oil boomtown conditions and their surrounding environments were almost always neglected and came second to petroleum profits. As a result, land was often left decimated after wells would run dry and the crowds would move on.

The U.S had seen its fair share of “”oil rivers”” and oil drenched drilling fields, but nothing compared to the negative emotional, legal, and environmental effects brought about by the PEMEX Ixtoc Oil spill of 1979.

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This catastrophe incompused environmental issues like damage to ocean and U.S coastal ecosystems, congressional hearings pertaining to the legal responsibility of Mexico, as well as political matters like local Texas government and U.S- Mexico relations.

In December of 1978, Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) started to drill a 3km deep well called the Ixtoc in the Bay of Campeche, 80 kilometers northwest of the city Ciudad de Carmen, Mexico. On June 3, 1979, the Ixtoc experienced multiple problems which resulted in severing the circulation of the drill mud within the well. Without the counter-pressure provided by the circulating mud, pressure was allowed to build in the well column.

Multiple attempts were made to regain control of the wells functions, but all failed. Hours later, these problems caused a catastrophic blowout of the well which destroyed the platform and caused the Ixtoc well to begin leaking large amounts of oil into the gulf of Mexico. In the initial stages of the oil spill, an estimated 30,000 barrels were streaming from the well per day. As time went on, lots of different countermeasures were taken to try and and reduce the volume of oil leaking.

In July 1979, the pumping of mud into the well reduced the flow by one third. In August close to 100,000 metal balls were placed in the well head which resulted in reduction of leakage down to 10,000 barrels per day. The parent company of PEMEX burned and sprayed surface oil to try and lessen the effects that were to come when the oil made landfall.

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History of the Ixtoc Oil Spill. (2019, Oct 06). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/history-of-the-ixtoc-oil-spill/