Oil Spill

Oil Spill

Oil wastes having access to ocean waters emanate from numerous sources. As Perrons (2013) observe some are accidental spills or leaks from wells and vessels transporting oil and related products.  Other spills are as a result of acute prolonged and careless habitual methods in handling oil usage. The research paper will handle Ixtoc 1 oil spill, give a brief history of the actual happening, corrective actions undertaken to counter the spill and highlight agencies involved. The essay will ultimately discuss the disregarded compliance standards.

Brief Summary

According to United States (2011), oil exploration exercise was undergoing on 3rd June 1979 when Ixtoc 1 blew out and started pouring crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  The semi-submersible drilling rig was undertaking the activity northwest of Ciudad Del Carmen when the well suffered a massive blow out resulting to an oil spill of its kind in history. A series on facts show that the blow was gushing oil 20 feet into the air estimated to be approximately 30,000 to 45,000 barrels a day. The well lacked the counter pressure mechanism resulting to excessive force formation in the well column consequently blowing out the well. The aftermath of the blow was fire breakup making Sedco 135F collapse in the sea (Perrons, 2013). Sinking of the rig constrained efforts to control the blow. The fire was caused by the ignition of oil and gas coming out of the well. Three companies i.e. Sedco, a Texas run American company, Permargo and Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexican state agencies were undertaking the oil drilling operation. The well poured out oil into the gulf for nearly ten months releasing approximately 126 million oil gallons. The turn of events of IXTOC-1 catastrophe made the spill the second largest accidental well blow out into the marine waters.

As United States (2011) explains, a day prior to the massive blowout, the three exploring agencies had drilled a depth of 3,615 meters. The level was made of soft sedimentary soil causing the weight of the bit to reduce. A fracture developed on the piping resulting to an entire loss of material circulation in the well. As the engineers from the drilling corporations deliberated on the appropriate corrective action for the glitch, oil and pressure started building up in the well column. The representatives from the companies agreed to mend the fracture by substituting the drill bit with open pipes to force oil downwards. The pressure however was overwhelming and had reached an unstable level causing mud to increase. The operators installed preventer, a safety mechanism to curb potential blow out. The device however failed to work properly after activation attempts by PeMex operators. Increased mud filled the drill pipes hampering the blades from closing and shearing in the right way. The series of events amounted to a catastrophic blowout that transpired at 3.30, June 3rd. The escaping oil and gas ignited leading to a massive explosion. United States (2011) notes that the inferno lasted until 10.00 am following day making the drilling tower collapse and capsize. The oil and gas continued gushing out violently for a duration of 290 days making the venture a total loss.

Corrective actions

Within the period of the disastrous occurrence, attempts were made to cap the pouring out. Though some proved fruitful, the minor successes were realized slowly. Current research on the topic shows that later in August the teams managed to pump 100, 000 steel, iron and lead balls into the well significantly reducing the flow to 10,000 gallons a day. Mexican authorities drilled two relief wells adjacent to the pouring well. Drilling assisted reduce the buildup pressure further. Divers attempted to manually cap the blowout preventer that had failed but in vain (United States, 2011). A combination of cement and salt water was injected into the well. PeMex Corporation successfully sealed and stopped flow of oil using cement plugs. PeMex liaised with Conair aviation to project Corexit a chemical depressant to mitigate impact of spilled oil. The aviation managed to flow 493 aerial missions, handling 1,100 square miles of oil. To lower impact of oil on Barrier Island beaches, skimmers and booms were placed to safeguard inlets to the bays and lagoons (Perrons, 2013).

The spill on areas such as Aransas Pass and Brazos-Santiago Pass was sealed with sand. Cleaning was undertaken to dispense oil slick on environmentally and economically sensitive islands. Rakes and shovels were employed by laborers to maintain the beaches slick free. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service trained volunteers in handling oil birds. The trained crew carried beach patrols on Padre Island. As Perrons (2013) postulate bird cleaning stations were established by the USFWS as part of the corrective measures. PeMex one of the drilling corporations set up drilling platforms that limited shrimpers and fishers from accessing marine region affected by the oil spill. The restrictions allowed replenishing of fish stocks and prevented fishers from tampering with corrective mechanism. Emergency corrective actions on oil contaminated soil in the region adjacent to the gulf were undertaken. A fuel oil storage tank was submersed 100 feet from the coastal water way on the ground to help clean up affected soils. The fuel tank covered with an impermeable liner equipped with a drainage pipe was used to inject storm water inside polluted soils.

Actions such as excavation of tarnished soils and removal of free floating oil on stagnant water were undertaken. The scooped soils were disposed as special waste away from human and animal habitations (Perrons, 2013). The excavated areas were later regraded and filled with clean soils. Revegetation of affected island and beaches was done using native flora. Water collected in the containment areas was manually pumped and consequently treated. Mechanical clean-up was undertaken to dispense oil from water surface. Activities such as corralling of slicks for example using booms and tow-vessels were undertaken. Moreover, measures such as skimming of slicks using special apparatus and vessels were implemented. Equipment made of synthetic polymers were utilized to enable collecting of slick and prevent formation of oil emulsions. Oil slick on water in remote areas was undertaken as a remedial action. Bioremediation, a treatment option was used in removing oil surfaces (Hoang, Washington State & Washington State Library, 2007). As part of corrective actions the corporations undertaking the exploration in the Mexican gulf developed spill prevention, control and countermeasures plan to prevent occurrence of a similar ordeal. The plan outlined the procedures and equipment such as dikes and terms for spill prevention. The companies integrated plant integrity testing and leak testing to ensure sound operating conditions of wells and vessels.

Agencies involved

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council

The Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act created the council comprised of governors from states affected by Ixtoc 1 oil spill. According to Hoang et al., (2007) the council was involved in enacting corrective actions to ensure that Gulf of Mexico recovers from the disastrous impacts of the spill.

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment

The agency was involved in separate processes and undertook different responsibilities to ensure recovery of Gulf Environment. The NRDA committed resources used to undertake cleanup exercise in the marine waters. The council mission during the aftermath was to restore the ecosystem and revamp the economy for the Gulf region residents (Perrons, 2013). Efforts by the administrators and stakeholders were aimed at restoring Gulf Coast to its usual vibrant status.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

The foundation showed commitment to implementing corrective measures stipulated in the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. Activities by NFWF were directed at ensuring projects financed by GEBF resulted to natural resource conservation for the Gulf Coast inhabitants (United States, 2011).

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S agency invited and trained volunteers in handling affected oil birds. The team undertook patrols along Gulf Coast islands as part of clean up exercise. USFWS established bird cleaning stations for restoration of Mexican Gulf.

Compliance standards violated

The clean water act and the oil pollution avoidance standards were violated. The regulations as Hoang et al., (2007) explain set forth requirements for prevention, preparedness and swift response to oil spills. The standards require corporations to design and execute oil spill prevention, control and countermeasure strategies. The regulations by EPA stipulate that corporations develop and implement plant and machine integrity tests to prevent accidental oil discharges (Committee for Sustaining Oklahoma’s Energy Resources, Enviro Clean Services, Lodes & Laura Worthen, Murphy, 2014). The EPA requires firms to comply to clean water laws and regulations to safeguard human and plant life. Facilities must have SPCC plan and outline measures to prevent and contain a potential oil spill disaster.


Committee for Sustaining Oklahoma’s Energy Resources.; Enviro Clean Services.; Lodes, & Laura Worthen.; Murphy, K. (2014). Spill prevention, control & countermeasure (SPCC) and air regulations update. SOER.

Hoang, N., Washington (State), & Washington State Library. (2007). Concise explanatory statement for the adoption of facility handling standards (WAC 173-180-025) ; vessel oil transfer advance notice and containment requirements (WAC 173-184-025) ; oil spill contingency planning (WAC 173-182-030) ; pre-assessment screening and oil spill compensation schedule regulations (WAC 173-183-100 & 320) ; definitions (WAC 317-05-020). Olympia, Wash.: Washington State Dept. of Ecology.

Perrons, R. (2013). Assessing the damage caused by deepwater horizon : not just another Ixtoc oil spill. Elsevier Ltd.

United States. (2011). Macondo: The Gulf oil disaster : Chief Counsel’s report. Washington, D.C.: National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

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