Study Compares 2010 and 1979 Oil Spills

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, June 8 (UPI) — A Texas A&M University researcher says the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is similar to one that occurred in 1979 that took 10 months to cap.

Norman Guinasso, director of the university’s Geochemical and Environmental Research Group, said the June 1979 event occurred when a Mexican well named Ixtoc I blew out and sank about 50 miles off the Bay of Campeche.

He said the BP Oil Co.’s Deepwater Horizon well that caught fire and sank April 20 and the Ixtoc are very similar events, especially in the failed efforts to contain the oil leaks.

The Ixtoc I well was owned by Pemex, Mexico’s government-owned petroleum company.

“What is happening today, especially the failures to cap the well, happened in a similar way back in 1979,” Guinasso said. “And just like the current spill, there was a blowout preventer that was supposed to have worked, but it did not.

“But the big difference … was the depth of the water — it was only in 160 feet of water, not like the more-than-5,000-foot depth of the current oil leak.”

About 170 miles of Texas shoreline eventually were affected by the 1979 spill that released an estimated 140 million gallons of oil before the Ixtoc was capped.

But, in the case of the BP oil rig spill, Guinasso says, “There seem to be no doubt this will be one of the worst environmental disasters in American history.”

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