PEMEX has issued a statement on the oil spill identified in the Gulf of Mexico, expressing disagreement with the estimations regarding the size of the spill. On July 17, 2023, NGOs reported a significant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, near PEMEX facilities. The spill was discovered a few days before a fire broke out at Cantarell, which lead to the loss of workers, several workers injured and a production disruption amounting to 700Mb/d.
Geographer Guillermo Tamburini reported the size of the oil spill was 400km2 as of July 12—more than double the area of the city of Guadalajara. However, PEMEX reports that two leakage points were identified, one measuring 7cm by 1mm and another with a diameter of 1.2cm, stating that the leak was “minimal” and that the leak was reported immediately to the Agency of Safety, Energy and Environment (ASEA) and the Navy (SEMAR). Furthermore, as Ek-Balam’s pipeline networks have concluded their 30-year useful life, they are being replaced.
According to PEMEX, the spill was actually 58m2 in size, equivalent to 365b and affected an area of 0.06km2, where the thickness of the oil film is estimated to be 1mm. Moreover, most of the spill was retrieved. PEMEX deemed the original report released on July 17 as an act of bad faith, stating that for an oil spill of 400km2, more than 1.5Mb would have to be spilled.
The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) also released a report on the incident and clarified that the spill is unrelated to the Cantarell fire at the Nohoch-A platform. SEMARNAT stated that it was notified of the spill on July 6.
SEMARNAT conducted an oversight flyover in the area of the leak and instructed supervisory actions regarding containment, cleaning activities and pipeline repairs. The Agency also stated that it will establish precautionary measures for the replacement of facilities to prevent such events in the future.
PEMEX’s press release was met with criticism by NGOs, however, which reported inconsistencies in the NOC’s answers. The NGOs pointed out that although the spill was reported to the authorities, it was kept from the public.
The NOC has already experienced several operational incidents in 2023, resulting in the downgrade of its credit rating by Fitch Ratings. The firm stated that PEMEX's operational track record has been negatively impacted by multiple fires reported at critical assets, resulting in significant incidents and the tragic loss of employees' lives. These accidents can be largely attributed to underinvestment in maintenance.