Potential impacts of a US/Mexico trans-boundary oil spill

Discuss the plan and exercise developed by the US and Mexico to manage an oil spill that migrates across the international boundary and requires a responsible spiller to address the pollution from an un-controlled blowout in a coordinated and effective response.


The US Government and Mexico have cooperated for over a two decades to develop the MEXUS plan and exercise for a trans-boundary spill. The genesis is a result of the 1979 Ixtoc blowout and spill which originated in the Bay of Campeche and impacted the US. The plan was written based on near shore and shoreline response where critical response resources would need to transit the border and many responsible party management issues would challenge a response. This assumption has changed with the deep-water drilling and production in the Gulf of Mexico.


The deep water oil and gas industry has moved into deeper water farther from shore and several operators are now just less than 50 miles from the international boarder but 200 + miles from the closest land. The MEXUS plan had not really contemplated an uncontrolled deep-water blowout in the central Gulf of Mexico such a short distance from the international boarder. Some of the alternative response technologies have a potential to impact the economic zone of either Mexico or the US. This poses major logistical and regulatory challenges that need to be worked before an incident occurs to make timely decisions during a response. Mexico and the US made a decision in 2014 to seek a responsible party with operations in the area described and conduct a multiyear planning and exercise process to answer many of these critical questions.

How this helps

Because of this work, coordination processes and industry continuity questions will be addressed and contingences are being developed to address many response questions.

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