Mexico's Deepwater Drilling Plans Cause for Alarm
In February,2012 I blogged about a Spanish company that was drilling a deepwater exploratory oil well 30 miles north of Cuba and just 70 miles south of the Florida Keys. view blog here. I expressed concern because the rig was drilling in water 6500 feet deep which is 1500 feet deeper than the water the Deepwater Horizon was drilling in at the time it was destroyed in 2010 causing the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Now an even greater threat has arisen. Mexico’s state oil company, PEMEX, has announced plans to begin drilling two deepwater oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 30 miles south of the maritime boundary in the Gulf between Mexico and the United States. One of the rigs will drill in 8,316 feet of water and the other in 9,514 feet of water nearly TWICE the depth the Deepwater Horizon was drilling in.
PEMEX has no experience drilling at such depths. Mexico’s oil regulator, the National Hydrocarbons Commission, is sounding alarm bells saying that PEMEX is unprepared for a serious deepwater accident or oil spill. Even worse, in the event of a major spill, Mexico does not have a fleet of vessels large enough to contain or clean up such a spill. Mexico’s navy has only 189 ships and PEMEX contracts only about 180 vessels. In contrast, after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP, the U.S. Coast Guard, and state and federal officials employed over 3,000 vessels to help set containment booms, collect spilled crude oil and clean marshes, wetlands and beaches from Texas to the Florida Panhandle.
It is almost exactly 2 years since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010 off the Louisiana coast killing 11 workers and spilling 4.9 million barrels of oil in the Gulf during the nearly 3 months it took to stop the spill. BP has said that their spill could eventually cost them $42 billion for cleanup costs , compensation to victims and government fines and penalties. Does PEMEX or even Mexico have the ability to pay for a similar or worse spill? Let’s hope we don’t have to answer that question.
Learn more about Maritime Law