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News Article

Scientists Demand Transparency Following Gulf of Mexico Fire

By Rodrigo Brugada | Fri, 07/16/2021 - 19:29

Following the accident on July 2, in which the fracture of a pipeline 80 meters under the sea in the Gulf of Mexico caused a gas spill followed by an underwater fire, scientists and environmentalists are demanding access to the site and information related to the disaster.

PEMEX reported that the pipeline fracture resulted from an intense electrical storm and that the fire was caused by electrical discharges that fell into the sea. The state-owned company noted that the fire consumed all the gas, and the leak has been repaired by sealing it with nitrogen. The company also assured that it had ruled out permanent damage to the area’s ecosystems.

However, scientists and environmentalists say that they have not had access to the site, so they have not been able to corroborate that there has been no damage. This area is restricted by the Mexican government, which made research impossible. In addition, experts point out that determining the impacts of an accident is particularly difficult due to the dispersion of contaminants in the sea. 

Animal Politico mentions that the emergency was treated with a lack of technical rigor and followed by ambiguous and rare statements from the responsible authorities, evidencing opacity incompatible with transparency and accountability. This lack of information worries the scientific community and environmentalists about the accident and the possible frequency with which incidents may be occurring with a high potential for chronic damage to the populations of more than 5,000 marine species that inhabit the area.

It is challenging to be certain of the effects on the ecosystems because the potentially affected areas are very far away. When it is possible to see the impact, the ocean has already diluted all of the pollutants. Partly because of this, it is difficult to track long-term ecological effects. The event generated a massive emission of pollutants into the atmosphere, mainly seen through the elevation of NO2 that spread to all coastal states in that region of the country. This may represent a severe public health problem that is invisible as it has chronic effects.

According to a report prepared by the civil organization Cartocritica, there are no direct measurements of emissions in the hydrocarbon sector in Mexico. There is no efficient inspection and surveillance system, and it is not possible to verify that the sector's facilities are adequate.

Deep-sea oil exploration is not ideal as the world transitions away from fossil fuels, especially in a country that in 2019 ranked fourth in the world in SO2 emissions, according to a Greenpeace analysis.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
PEMEX, Animal Politico, ADAM Platform, Cartocritica, Greenpeace
Photo by:   Thomas Hawk on Flickr
Rodrigo Brugada Rodrigo Brugada Journalist & Industry Analyst