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May 02, 2010

Ixtoc I: The Last Bad One in the Gulf

June 3, 1979. I had just been kicked out of my first college when the PEMEX platform imploded and bathed the beaches of Mexico and Texas with quite a mess.

That link is to an analysis for purchase, just wanted to show you on a map where the platform was.. way south.

I'm not an engineer, but I get it that there are issues of extreme pressure and counter-control/management involved in tapping oil and gas reserves. We all do really, we've seen the "it's a gusher" clips and all that.

This isn't an engineering analysis of the accident, or an environmental impact study (well, ok a little) so much as it is a personal anecdote about my observations of the last bad one in the Gulf.

If you noted from the map, this platform was waaaaay the hell away from Texas, a 100 or so km from Ciudad del Carmen in Campeche according to the Wiki entry. Down on that hook thingy part of eastern Mexico, across from Vera Cruz. Long haul.

After several weeks, the resulting flow of oil from the wreckage started hitting the Texas coast (it had already been hitting eastern Mexico shores).

So me and 3 of my idiot friends decided to do a road trip on our bikes and take a look. We rode for about 9 hours down to a place near RedFish bay on South Padre and checked out the beaches. The oil had formed into these fist-sized balls of tar that were littering the beach up and down.

And we had the world's first (as far as I know) tar ball fight. Like guys will do, we threw it, ground it into each other's hair, made Mikey eat some. Paintball fights without protective gear or crappy clothes. Later we tried as best we could later that evening to scrub the shit off, and partially succeeded.

It was a mess. I'll give you that. I mean the beach.

And us.

I went back there in 85. Almost five years to the day after they finally capped the thing. And you could not tell it had happened. Texas mobilized cleanup activities, largely scraping sand from the beaches and replacing it. (warning, Aggie link).

We cleaned it up.

The point of this rambling anecdote is that even before Valdez, we'd seen the results of accidents that occur while producing a necessary and needed commodity. It happens. Healthy economies can manage the cleanups. Unhealthy ones can't. If you've been to a few third world shitholes you already know what I'm talking about.

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posted by Dave In Texas at 05:48 PM

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