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Mexico's Deepwater Drilling Plans Spell Doom

Common Dreams staff

The Centenario platform is one of the new deepwater rigs that Mexico's state oil company, Pemex, will use to drill in ultra deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. (photo: Pemex / MCT)

Plans to begin deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico by Mexico's state owned oil company have environmental fears flying.

The plans of the company, Pemex, involve drilling wells into more than 9000 feet of water -- depths at which the company has no experience drilling. In contrast, the depth of the Deepwater Horizon well was about 5,100 feet when the explosion happened.

The case of an oil spill resulting from the deep-water drilling would represent another scenario of privatizing profits while socializing risk; the taxpayers would end up paying a great portion of the claims and cleanup costs.

Jeremy Martin, the energy program director at the Institute of the Americas, gave McClatchy information that may provide little comfort: "I don't think we should be any more concerned about what they are doing than some of the things we are doing on our side of the Gulf."

Pemex owned the Ixtoc I well which was responsible for a 1979 oil spill that spewed 3.5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf for over more than 9 months -- one of the worst oil spills in history.

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McClatchy: Mexican plan for Gulf deep-water wells sparks new worries

If all goes as planned, Petroleos de Mexico, known as Pemex, will deploy two state-of-the-art drilling platforms in May to an area just south of the maritime boundary with the United States. One rig will sink a well in 9,514 feet of water, while another will drill in 8,316 feet of water, then deeper into the substrata.

Pemex has no experience drilling at such depths. Mexico's oil regulator is sounding alarm bells, saying the huge state oil concern is unprepared for a serious deep-water accident or spill. Critics say the company has sharply cut corners on insurance, remiss over potential sky-high liability. [...]

[T]he technological challenges of ultra-deepwater drilling — anything more than 5,000 feet of water — are significant because of the high pressures and complex seabed extraction systems, akin even to launching spaceships into orbit, experts said. The Deepwater Horizon was drilling in about 5,100 feet of water when it exploded. [...]

In the event of a deep-water disaster, whether claimants could ever get Pemex, or the Mexican treasury, to pay is an open question. Major damage claims haven't been tried against a state oil company. Given that Pemex turns over most revenues to the treasury, Mexican taxpayers would have to pay much of the cleanup costs and legal claims.

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Common Dreams: BP Spill Caused 'Graveyard of Corals'
New Evidence points to 'chemical fingerprint' of Deepwater Horizon

A team of scientists have released evidence that officially traces irreparable damage of coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Researchers described the site as a 'graveyard of coral' resembling bare skeleton and loose tissue covered in 'heavy mucous and brown fluffy material'.

The new evidence reveals the impact of the BP disaster on marine life, as it may only be the tip of the iceberg of damage caused by the spill. Coral is essential to the health of marine ecosystems, the researchers emphasized. This damage will lead to 'a tangled web of impact'.

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Common Dreams: Scientists: Dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico Dying 'At an Alarming Rate'
"Unusual Mortality Event" contradicts BP's portrayal of health of Gulf

A recent television commercial from British Petroleum portrays a healthy coast along the Gulf of Mexico. In the commercial, the beaches are clean, the water is clear, the birds are oil-free. BP community outreach figure Iris Cross says that "All beaches and waters are open - for everyone to enjoy."

Screen shot from WKMG - Orlando showing a dead dolphin on the coast next to a screen shot from BP's commercial

Dolphins, however, do not seem to be enjoying the waters. Scientists say an unusually high number of dead dolphins have been washing up on the shores. The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has recorded 630 dolphin strandings since Feb. 1, 2010 from the Texas-Louisiana border to the Florida Panhandle and has called it an "Unusual Mortality Event."

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