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Crisis By the Numbers: A Comparison of Ixtoc I, Deepwater and the Biggest Spill of All.

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posted on May, 14 2010 @ 04:03 PM

Ixtoc I is currently considered the largest accidental oil release event in history. It also occurred in the Gulf of Mexico:

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.


As we will see later, the largest oil spill is the one Saddam Hussein intentionally created in the Persian Gulf, during the first Gulf War.

But let's look more closely at the Ixtoc I disaster.

In many ways, it's very instructive concerning our current predicament and helps to put things into perspective.

For example, let's compare the water depth of each well. For that purpose, I've put together the following graphic:

Big difference, huh?

Now consider these statistics:

See the concern?

If it took 9 months to cap the Ixtoc I well at a fraction of the depth and at a flow rate of less than half of that of Deepwater, can we reasonably expect to do better now?

The well was initially flowing at a rate of 30,000 barrels per day (1 barrel = 42 US gallons = 159 litres), which was reduced to around 10,000 bpd by attempts to plug the well. Two relief wells were drilled to relieve pressure and the well was eventually killed nine months later on 23 March 1980.


Does that playbook sound familiar to you?

BP Plc may try injecting debris and fluids to plug its leaking well in the Macondo field next week as the costs of battling the Gulf of Mexico oil spill mount.

The company, in what it calls a “junk shot,” may inject items including tire pieces and golf balls to seal the top of the well. BP said today it has spent about $450 million on cleanup operations and settlements, or an average of $20 million a day since the rig exploded, up from the previous $6-million-a- day estimate. The rate of spending in response to the incident “is definitely going up,” David Nicholas, a BP spokesman in Houston, said today in an interview. Higher costs in the past three days include leasing an offshore rig to drill a back-up well in case the first relief well, started May 2, fails to plug the leak permanently, he said.


So in other words, no new approach even after more than thirty years of offshore drilling.


The largest spill in history is the one caused by Saddam Hussein.

Gulf War oil spill

The Gulf War oil spill is regarded as the largest oil spill in history, resulting from actions taken during the Gulf War in 1991 by the Iraqi military.

It caused considerable damage to wildlife in the Persian Gulf especially in areas surrounding Kuwait and Iraq. Estimates on the volume spilled range from 42 to 462 million gallons; the slick reached a maximum size of 101 by 42 miles and was 5 inches thick. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the size of the spill, figures place it 5 to 27 times the size (in gallons spilled) of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and more than twice the size of the 1979 Ixtoc I blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico.

Doing the simple math with the new 70,000 barrels per day estimate at Deepwater, we'll exceed the size of the Ixtoc I disaster sometime around June 4th. If it takes BP nine months to cap Deepwater, as it took for Ixtoc I, and assuming the flow rate remains constant, then the Deepwater disaster will be nearly double the size of the Persian Gulf spill, weighing in at nearly 19 million barrels of oil!

If it takes longer than 9 months... Well, you see the point.

I suppose this would be our maximum exposure:

BP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, has estimated that the reservoir tapped by the out-of-control well holds at least 50 million barrels of oil.


It surprises me how few people appreciate where we are with this disaster. Speaking to several people over the past few days, it's clear the media has not done its job educating the public on the scale of the disaster and what is at risk.

Notwithstanding that point, let's hope for the best and wish all who are working to end this disaster the best of all luck possible.

We clearly are going to need it.

See also:

The Scale of the Deepwater Disaster
Amateur Video Of Gulf Oil Slick - Worse Than BP Admits
Is BP's cure much worse than the disease?

[edit on 14-5-2010 by loam]

posted on May, 14 2010 @ 09:29 PM
reply to post by loam

That's crazy what's that...less than 50 days and it will surpass the largest spill in history...very worrying...and a very informative thread, nice work.

[edit on 14/5/10 by CHA0S]

posted on May, 15 2010 @ 06:44 AM
Nicely presented work, Thanks. Although it is difficult estimating flow rates, the comparisons on here are easy to grasp.

I'm going to check the lasting effects of the Persian Gulf spill now, i guess the type of oil is going to make a difference as to how much damage will ultimately be caused.

posted on May, 15 2010 @ 07:27 AM
Awesome thread Loam.

I really appreciate somebody doing the research which clearly shows how intense and problematic of a situation this is.

Those who try to downplay the situation are clearly off their rocker. This is serious.

We can't really expect the media to cover anything important like they should. I've noticed an increase of BS coverage while only running BS versions of the important stuff.

Quite sad.

I hope BP can pull a miracle out of their asses.


posted on May, 15 2010 @ 09:09 AM
You know, I havn't heard a single person (offline) bring this spill up in a single conversation since it happened...

It's like it never even happened most of the time, but it certainly did happen and it's still happening and I for one can't stop thinking about it.

It sucks and I wish there were something we could do. It's just begining to look like the world is being run by failing highschool kids.

posted on May, 15 2010 @ 09:54 AM
reply to post by Hullabaloo


I'm actually stunned that so few seem to think this is important outside of ATS.

It proves slow boil theory is true.

This disaster is in slow motion and will play out over a period of months-- its effects, likely, over a period of years.

By the time people really notice, the opportunity to hold the decision makers (BP and the government) accountable for their decision making relative to the crisis will have long passed...

For now, we are very much a nation along for the ride.

Buckle-up everyone...keep your hands in the vehicle at all times...

[edit on 15-5-2010 by loam]

posted on May, 27 2010 @ 06:34 AM
An interesting thread that was started has some ties to this one.

Should have a look at it to see how eerily similar these two spills are.

posted on May, 27 2010 @ 10:59 AM
reply to post by GAOTU789

S+F this is pretty crazy. I posted the following in the thread GAOTU789 linked to:

In 1979, the oil crisis, as it was known, was exacerbated by geopolitical factors. Americans were being held hostage in Iran, and OPEC was emerging as a political force. Today, OPEC is less of a force, and Americans are at war, not in Iran, but in Iraq. Price shocks are felt from violence and sabotage there, as well as from political currents in Russia and Venezuela. There is more world demand from outside the U.S. and Europe than there was a generation ago.

posted on Jun, 16 2010 @ 07:16 AM
Hello, I was going to make this thread but noticed it was already on here. I would like to add that the Ixtoc 1 lasted for 295 days.

This website states

"the oil spurt had been reduced first from 4,200 – 4,300 tonnes/day to 1,400 – 1,500 tonnes/day, thanks to the digging of freeing pipes which lowered pressure in the implicated well."

1500 tonnes/day = 476,639 gallons a day.

Some updated numbers for the deepwater: in an AP news article, scientists estimated that the deepwater is spilling 2.52 million gallons a day

The Ixtoc 1 spilled a total of 470,000 to 1.5 millions tonnes, or 149 million to 462 million gallons.

116 million gallons have gushed out already of deepwater.

If this continues at a rate of 2 million a day, and deepwater goes for as long as the Ixtoc 1, then it will spill 590 million gallons of oil.

Sad news for corexit:

"The widespread use of dispersants (during Ixtoc 1), the settlement of containment booms and the mobilization of all PEMEX’s recovery means were insuffisant when faced with such a spill. Oil slicks reached the coast around Vera Cruz, Tampico, Campeche, Laguna Madre and even as far as Texas."

In conclusion, the deepwater is far greater than the Ixtoc 1 in terms of oil spillage, but Ixtoc 1 went for a staggering 295 days, and so we are only day 57 into the BP disaster.

[edit on 16-6-2010 by filosophia]

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