deja vous

31 05 2010

Today I offer you  a brief history lesson that will blow your mind.  All information shared here is from  Direct links are provided at the end of the blog.  Click them to read more about these events.
Ixtoc Oil Spill 1979
Ixtoc I was an exploratory oil well being drilled by the semi-submersible platform that we know today as Transocean Ltd.  The location was in the Gulf of Mexico about 62 miles northwest of Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche in waters 160 feet deep.  On June 3, 1979, the well suffered a blowout.  A blowout is the uncontrolled release of crude oil and/or natural gas from an oil well after pressure control systems have failed. At the time of the accident Sedco 135F a.k.a. Transocen was drilling at a depth of about 11,800 ft below the seafloor.   The day before Ixtoc suffered the blowout and resulting fire that caused her to sink, the drill bit hit a region of soft strata soil.   Subsequently, the circulation of drilling mud was lost resulting in a loss of hydrostatic pressure. Rather than returning to the surface, the drilling mud was escaping into fractures that had formed in the rock at the bottom of the hole. PEMEX officials decided to remove the bit, run the drill pipe back into the hole and pump materials down this open-ended drill pipe in an effort to seal off the fractures that were causing the loss of circulation. During the removal of the pipe, the drilling mud suddenly began to flow up towards the surface; by removing the drill-string the well was ‘swabbed’ leading to a ‘kick’ . Normally, this flow can be stopped by activating shear rams contained in the blowout preventer (BOP). These rams are designed to sever and seal off the well on the ocean floor; however in this case drill collars had been brought in line with the BOP and the BOP rams were not able to sever the thick steel walls of the drill collars leading to a catastrophic blowout. The drilling mud was followed by a large quantity of oil and gas at an increasing flow rate. The oil and gas fumes exploded on contact with the operating pump motors, starting a fire which led to the collapse of the Sedco 135F a.k.a. Transocean 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 into the Gulf of Mexico.
In the initial stages of the spill, an estimated 30,000 barrels of oil per day were flowing from the well. In July 1979, the pumping of mud into the well reduced the flow to 20,000 barrels per day, and early in August the pumping of nearly 100,000 steel, iron, and lead balls into the well reduced the flow to 10,000 barrels per day. PEMEX claimed that half of the released oil burned when it reached the surface, a third of it evaporated, and the rest was contained or dispersed. Mexican authorities also drilled two relief wells into the main well to lower the pressure of the blowout, however the oil continued to flow for three months following the completion of the first relief well. PEMEX contracted Conair Aviation to spray the chemical dispersant Corexit 9527 on the oil. A total of 493 aerial missions were flown, treating 1,100 square miles of oil slick. Dispersants were not used in the U.S. area of the spill because of the dispersant’s inability to treat weathered oil. Eventually the on-scene coordinator (OSC) requested that Mexico stop using dispersants north of 25°N. In Texas, an emphasis was placed on coastal countermeasures protecting the bays and lagoons formed by the Barrier Islands. Impacts of oil to the Barrier Island beaches were ranked as second in importance to protecting inlets to the bays and lagoons. This was done with the placement of skimmers and booms. Ultimately, 71,500 barrels of oil impacted 162 miles of U.S. beaches, and over 10,000 cubic yards of oiled material were removed.  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 (480,000 m3) of oil. PEMEX spent $100 million to clean up the spill and avoided paying compensation by asserting sovereign immunity.  (Sovereign immunity is the doctrine that the sovereign or state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit.)

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill 2010
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a massive ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is now considered the largest offshore spill in U.S. history. The spill stems from a sea floor oil gusher that started with an oil well blowout on April 20, 2010. The blowout caused a catastrophic explosion on the Deepwater Horizons off shore drilling platform  that was situated about 40 miles southeast of the Louisiana  coast in the Manacondo Prospect oil field. The explosion killed 11 platform workers and injured 17 others; another 98 people survived without serious physical injury. (*Note, I could not easily find any information regarding the people involved in the Ixtoc rig explosion.)
The gusher originates from a deepwater oil well 5,000 feet below the ocean surface. Estimates of the amount of oil being discharged range from BP’s current estimate of over 5,000 barrels (210,000 US gallons; 790,000 litres) to as much as 100,000 barrels (4,200,000 US gallons; 16,000,000 litres) of crude oil per day. The exact spill flow rate is uncertain – in part because BP has refused to allow independent scientists to perform accurate measurements – and is a matter of ongoing debate.  Originally, a video of the oil flow filmed underwater on site was leaked into the media generating a media storm of estimates much larger than what BP had been stating.  In addition, the proportion of natural gas in the mixture is not known. The resulting oil slick covers a surface area of at least 2,500 square miles and growing at a rapid pace with the exact size and location of the slick fluctuating from day to day depending on weather conditions. Scientists have also discovered immense underwater plumes of oil not visible from the surface.

The preliminary best estimate that was released on May 27 by the semi-official Flow Rate Technical Group put the volume of oil flowing from the blown-out well at 12,000 to 19,000 barrels (500,000 to 800,000 US gallons; 1,900,000 to 3,000,000 litres) per day, which had amounted to between 440,000 and 700,000 barrels (18,000,000 and 29,000,000 US gallons; 70,000,000 and 111,000,000 litres) as of that date. Experts fear that due to factors such as petroleum toxicity and oxygen depletion, the spill will result in an environmental disaster, damaging the Gulf of Mexico fishing industry,  the Gulf Coast tourism industry, and the habitat of hundreds of bird species. Crews are working to block off bays and estuaries, using anchored barriers, floating containment booms, , and sand-filled barricades along shorelines. There are a variety of ongoing efforts, both short and long term, to contain the leak and stop spilling additional oil into the Gulf.
BP(formerly British Petroleum) is the operator and principal developer of the Macondo Prospect, which was thought to hold as much as 50 million barrels (7.9×10^6 m3) of oil prior to the blowout (by BP’s own estimate). The Deepwater Horizon drilling platform had been leased by BP from its owner, Transocean Ltd. The U.S. Government has named BP as the responsible party in the incident, and officials have said the company will be held accountable for all cleanup costs resulting from the oil spill. BP has accepted responsibility for the oil spill and the cleanup costs, but indicated they were not at fault because the platform was run by Transocean personnel. The Deepwater Horizon blowout is the third serious incident at a BP-operated site in the United States in the last five years. These previous incidents, attributed to lapses in safety and maintenance, have contributed to the damage to BP’s reputation.

So, let’s look at some interesting facts here;
31 years later and we are faced with the same disaster and the same lack of plans.  It’s hard to fathom that no actions were taken in the last 31 years to create a safe back-up plan in the event this should happen again … ESPECIALLY when such deep water drilling was arguably very dangerous and not in the best interest of anyone or anything (except the oil companies, of course).
It’s also hard to realize that this has only just come to light recently.  I mean, I suppose any of us could’ve found this and brought it to light … obviously because someone did recently… but my point is, why wasn’t this talked about more? How did something so big get swept under the rug?
My friend Scott’s response to Maddow’s video (shared above): “That video on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill 31 years ago threw me for a loop.  They have done this before, and then successfully erased it from the mind of the public.  The companies change their names, and soon it is forgotten.  I cannot believe that they have not developed better emergency methods in 31 years.  They have been there before, and the statistics indicate that blowouts are somewhat part of the process from time to time.”
Does anyone find it interesting that, as one solution after another fails, everything just has to point to the most profitable solution for BP? Drilling those relief wells just happens to enable them to continue to retrieve that precious liquid gold, however the process is long and meanwhile the Gulf of Mexico continues to suffer the tragedy via an underwater oil volcano and a soup of toxic dispersants used to hide that oil from YOU.
Will you forget this tragedy too? Will you allow BP or Transocean or any other company involved to move on under a new name and continue to progress in this industry? Will you pressure your government to change things this time, since they’ve been failing for the last 31 years?? Will you ask your government why they aren’t doing more CURRENTLY?
we have to be realistic… don’t get me wrong, we can’t just stop drilling all together and pretend we could survive without oil, but we can begin to move in other directions and transition away from our need for oil.  If we all work together, it wouldn’t be impossible.
See also:
Ixtoc: A case study
Ixtoc: Economic Impact Documents 1980
Infographic breakdown of the current oil disaster
Macando Prospect

The video everyone’s been talking about… hard reporting on facts from 60 minutes.  A must see video that includes an interview with a surviving crew member from the Deepwater Horizon explosion, witnesses, and shocking reveals!  Go here:
“Understanding Fossil Fuel” explains the history of all fossil fuels and their extraction (including oil) as well as looking at energy alternatives



8 responses

31 05 2010

I am curious about the environmental impact of the oil spill 31 years ago. I don’t know how far away that spill was from where this spill is now. If that spill were covered up so well, I am wondering if the environment actually bounced back or if fishing was done in polluted waters unbeknownst. IF the environment bounced back, how long did it take? I am just wondering about the long term impact on the wildlife.

Also, it sounds like the spill 31 years ago was bigger but not in US waters. How did they stop it ultimately? Did it just “bleed out” ?

31 05 2010

I always do this wrong, lol… my reply is below… I pushed the comment button instead… sorry and thanks for visiting this blog too, Garin 🙂

31 05 2010

Great questions Garin. For the most part, this information shared here is all I could find… but I’m still researching it. You ask the same things I want to know. However, in the final results I don’t think it will be bigger than the current one. From what I can gather, Over time it healed itself but in the process it was just ignored and we continued to fish…etc… in what I suspect was polluted waters…etc… The way that it was resolved was by drilling the relief wells, just as they plan to do now. Seems to be the only solution from a financial aspect… but one thing that is clear to me, though murky as oily water to everyone else is, it takes a very long time to drill relief wells… but that is the only reliable way to salvage the existing oil supply and stop the leak. I can see other ways to stop the leak by permanently sealing the supply, but the financial loss is too severe despite the fact that the current ecological and local economic losses are far worse that permanently sealing it… money talks. I have been trying like hell to find more answers about the Ixtoc. How many people died? What DID happen to the environment? How long did it all take? etc… to no avail.

31 05 2010
1 06 2010

It is incredible that for 31 years a solution could not have been found. Obviously, they never tried and as you’ve said, it was swept under the rug. It’s a shame what oil companies are doing to the earth 😦

1 06 2010

Well, technically it was Mexico’s issue whereas this time it’s the USA’s but you would think that everyone could’ve & should’ve learned from it. Not to mention the fact that the rig company is the same company and both incidents occurred in the gulf offering the same potential dangers. It just seems incredibly foolish NOT to make MAJOR improvements over THREE decades.

12 07 2010

… and WHY can’t we get any concrete, non-PDF file, ‘lay-men’ termed facts about the long-term effects on human health from either close (clean-up & site personnel) contact or from 50 (coastal) mile radius residential contact? The VERY FEW media reports on the subject, while being scary as hell, appear dubious (yet deliberate) in their delivery, making us ’50 (coastal) mile radius’ residents even more apt to choose flight instead of fight. I find it hard to accept that this ‘fluke’ (& it’s repercussions) wasn’t expected all along; These people are highly paid intellectuals w/ degrees, am I to believe that they are as oblivious and unprepared as us ‘small people’? If so, EVERY highly paid ‘degree-in’hand’ intellectual is no more than a hermit crab lookin’ for a shell…

12 07 2010

Ruth! Great to see you here. So many unanswered questions, I hear ya! The toxic chemicals used to disperse this are what frighten me the most for sure! Unanswered questions? Here’s one, why was it EVER allowed to use a toxic dispersant that no one has any real knowledge of it’s effects? Highly paid… pffffffffft. Money is what it’s all about. The topic is otherwise useless until money starts talking. Money is why we are unprepared/UNPROTECTED ‘small people’! Be sure to read the blog I just posted, “The forgotten daughter”… it should get you going too!

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