Ixtoc Oil Spill- Gulf of Mexico 1979

This is from Wikipedia, but check the references.

This looks almost exactly like the BP Deep Horizon spill, though not as deep. This was over thirty (30) years ago!!!
( Note that Red Adair has recently sold out to Haliburton for $240 million. )


Ixtoc I Oil Spill- Gulf of Mexico 1979

Ixtoc I was an exploratory oil well being drilled by the semi-submersible platform Sedco 135F 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.[2]  On 3 June 1979, the well suffered a blowout resulting in the third largest oil spill and the second largest accidental spill in history.[3][4]


Mexico's government-owned oil company Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos) was drilling a 3 km (1.9 mi) deep oil well when the drilling rig Sedco 135F lost drilling mud circulation.

In modern rotary drilling, mud is circulated down the drill pipe and back up the casing to the surface. The goal is to equalize the pressure through the shaft and to monitor the returning mud for gas. Without the counter-pressure provided by the circulating mud, the pressure in the formation allowed oil to fill the well column, blowing out the well. The oil caught fire, and Sedco 135F burned and collapsed into the sea.[2]

At the time of the accident Sedco 135F was drilling at a depth of about 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) below the seafloor.[5] The day before Ixtoc suffered the blowout and resulting fire that caused her to sink, the drill bit hit a region of soft strata. Subsequently, the circulation of drilling mud was lost resulting in a loss of hydrostatic pressure.[6] 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 on Sedco 135F, 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 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.[5]
[edit] Volume and extent of spill

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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[7]

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. Efforts were concentrated on the Brazos-Santiago Pass, Port Mansfield Channel, Aransas Pass, and Cedar Bayou which during the course of the spill was sealed with sand. Economically and environmentally sensitive barrier island beaches were cleaned daily. Laborers used rakes and shovels to clean beaches rather than heavier equipment which removed too much sand. Ultimately, 71,500 barrels of oil impacted 162 miles of U.S. beaches, and over 10,000 cubic yards of oiled material were removed.[7]
[edit] Containment

In the next nine months, experts and divers including Red Adair were brought in to contain and cap the oil well.[7] An average of approximately ten thousand to thirty thousand barrels per day were discharged into the Gulf until it was finally capped on 23 March 1980, nearly 10 months later.[9]
[edit] Aftermath

Prevailing currents carried the oil towards the Texas coastline. The US government had two months to prepare booms to protect major inlets. Pemex spent $100 million to clean up the spill and avoided paying compensation by asserting sovereign immunity.[10]

The oil slick surrounded Rancho Nuevo, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which is one of the few nesting sites for Kemp's Ridley sea turtles. Thousands of baby sea turtles were airlifted to a clean portion of the Gulf of Mexico to help save the rare species.