Petróleo en el Golfo, ayer y hoy

VIENA – El 20 de abril, una explosión en Deepwater Horizon, una plataforma petrolera operada por British Petroleum (BP) en el Golfo de México, produjo el derrame de petróleo más publicitado en décadas. Otra explosión en las mismas aguas hace 31 años, un poco más al sur en el lado mexicano del Golfo, se convirtió en el mayor derrame jamás ocurrido en tiempos de paz.

La plataforma donde ocurrió el accidente, llamada Ixtoc 1, era operada por Pemex, la petrolera estatal mexicana. Ambos accidentes, y los derrames que causaron, tienen varias características en común, aunque en general los derrames de petróleo en el mar han cambiado profundamente en las tres décadas transcurridas entre ellos.

Los buques petroleros solían ser los responsables de la mayoría de los derrames de petróleo. El lavado de cisternas dio origen a una gran cantidad de pequeños derrames, y los accidentes de barcos como el Torrey Canyon, Exxon Valdez, Metula y St. Peter generaron grandes derrames concentrados. No eran poco comunes las explosiones en pozos, pero la mayoría ocurría en tierra firme o el aguas poco profundas, y se podían detener con relativa facilidad.

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