June 27, 2018 | Anne Roberts

Remembering An Accident: Ixtoc I Oil Spill

On June 3, 1979 the Ixtoc I ,located in the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded and caught fire at 3:30 AM. The Ixtoc oil spill became one of the largest oil spills in history.

So what happened?..

On June 2nd, the day before the blowout, the drill hit a spot with soft sedimentary soil that caused a bit weight reduction, also known as a break. This break unfortunately, caused a fracture in the wells’ piping that resulted in a complete loss in mud circulation drilling. As PeMex and Sedco argued over the best course of action oil began to build up in the west well column. Once the decision was made to remove the drill it was a little to late. Pressure had built to up extremely high, dangerous, and unstable levels. This caused a surge of mud to race up the drill pipe and spill onto the drilling platform. After the surge of mud multiple safety failures occurred creating a chain of events that resulted in the disastrous blow out.


After the blow out the now escaping oil ignited, and once it came into contact with gas fumes from a motor that powered the derrick aboard the platform the Ixtoc exploded at 3:30 am. The fire burned until about 10:00 am the next day. The fire caused the Sedco 135 drilling tower to collapse leading to the total loss of the drilling rig. Oil continued spilling out of the destroyed well for a total of 290 days, until the well was finally capped on March 23, 1980.


To learn more about the Ixtoc I Oil Spill click here.


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