Mexico Pipeline Oil Spill May Take Another Month To Clean Up
Pemex blamed the 31st December 2011 leak in Veracruz state on vandalism. Fuel thieves routinely tap into Mexico's network of pipelines to steal oil and gas for sale on the black market, often causing small spills. The company has contracted 140 workers to clean up the mess, which it said was mostly contained in a lagoon near the affected valve.
In December 2010, 28 people were killed when a massive spill caused by an illegal pipeline tap east of Mexico City caught fire and exploded. The spill in Veracruz is the biggest since then. The latest images of fouled river banks and black sludge in the water have environmental groups questioning Pemex's spotty safety and environmental record just as it embarks on an ambitious plan of oil exploration in the deep waters off the Gulf of Mexico.
Pemex is eyeing the estimated 29 billion barrels of oil beneath its territorial Gulf waters as it aims to replace lost output from aging fields. Mexico-based energy analyst David Shields says that upstream production and exploration poses different risks than overland transport of oil for refining. Vandalism is not likely to be an issue.
Pemex plans to have some 50 deepwater oil wells by 2015. Mexico's oil industry watchdog, the National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH), said Pemex has not yet acquired all of the necessary safety equipment to deal with deepwater accidents. The CNH does not regulate downstream operations, so the Veracruz leak is out of its jurisdiction, but the watchdog said it was concerned about spills upstream.