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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.