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IXTOC I
IXTOC I
Spill size: 480,000 tons
Responsible party: PEMEX
Cost: $42 million
Inflation-adjusted: $1.3 billion

A well called the IXTOC I caught fire and exploded in 1979. It belonged to Mexico's government-owned fuel company PEMEX.

If you're going to spill oil, the Gulf of Mexico is actually a remarkably resilient environment for it. The warm water serves as a good habitat for bacteria that break down petroleum. The ocean floor in that area also releases a couple thousand gallons of crude per day, naturally. The Harte Research Institute's Wes Tunnell was assigned to study the impact of the IXTOC I leak, but had his funding revoked. He says he guesses that most of the oil has been absorbed into the environment.

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Last updated May 19 2010: 12:28 PM ET
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