The Gulf of Mexico – the oil gulf

Increasing demand has pushed the oil industry deeper and deeper into the ocean, but the uncontrolled explosions in the Gulf of Mexico make us wonder if it is worth the risk?

The largest oil reserves discovered in the US over the last decades can be found in the depths of the Mexican Gulf, one of the most dangerous drilling areas in the world.

Over the years, the huge costs of undersea drilling have kept oil rigs close to the shores. But our dwindling reserves, record-high prices and spectacular discoveries made in the open ocean have triggered a general rush towards deep waters. Tupi and Guará, two recently discovered oil fields in Brazil, could turn this country into one of the world’s most important hydrocarbon producers. Just as promising are the deep sea drilling licenses issued by Angola, which have generated an atmosphere of hysteria during the latest bidding, with over 20 companies involved.

Even since 1995, the US Congress has encouraged deep-sea oil explorations in the Gulf of Mexico. Back then, a law was passed, exempting oil companies from paying royalties for deep-sea oil fields leased between 1996 and 2000. In no time, an entire fleet of oil platforms started to dig holes everywhere in the Gulf, each operation costing as much as 1 million dollars per day.

The Ixtoc oil spill occurred in 1979 and resulted in 467.000 tones of oil leaking into the sea. Fish farms and local industries were devastated, and biodiversity was seriously affected by this environmental disaster. According to Gustavo Mateos Moutiel, a 60 years old man living in Veracruz – Mexico, the Ixtoc spill caused the near annihilation of the coral reefs in the area. ,,Octopus species, sea urchins, mussels, sea-shells, all are gone. Fish stocks are nearly destroyed. Our families were starving. On the beach, there was oil halfway up to our knees”, he declared.


Deepwater Horizon was the largest accidental spill ever recorded in our oceans, with an estimated volume of 4.9 million barrels of oil entering the water. The only oil spill that surpassed it was the intentional discharge of 1991, which took place in Kuwait during the First Gulf War.

Government scientists estimate that British Petroleum has so far removed about one quarter of the spilled oil. Another 25% evaporated or became dissolved into tiny molecules, but the rest either dispersed into the water forming small drops that could be toxic to wildlife (25%), ended up on the beaches, forming lumps of tar or  formed a thin layer of oil on the water’s surface (an amount five times greater than the Exxon Valdez oil spill).

ixtoc-1The Deepwater Horizon accident is a direct consequence of our global dependence on oil – stated Mandy Joe, biochemist at Georgia University, which has spent years in the Gulf area, studying underwater vents and deep-sea oil leaks. ,,Such accidents are inevitable if we will continue to drill deeper. We are playing a dangerous game and if this accident is not a wake-up call for turning towards eco-friendly energy sources, I don’t know what else could be”! 

Source: National Geographic

Photos: laprimeraplanawikimedia

Article written by Razvan Spiridon and translated by Mihail Mitoseriu

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Acest user este dedicat tuturor colaboratorilor Greenly! Studenti, masteranzi, doctoranzi sau pur si simplu oameni din intreaga tara, din intreaga lume care impart aceeasi pasiune, ecologia. Si isi doresc sa-si imparteasca ideile prin intermediul revistei Greenly. Le multumim din toata inima!
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