BP's Macondo fate echoes that of fictional city

HOUSTON/NEW YORK Mon Aug 9, 2010 3:48pm EDT

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HOUSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The name BP Plc gave its Mississippi Canyon 252 prospect in the Gulf of Mexico -- Macondo -- could have foreshadowed disaster long before a blowout and deadly explosion unleashed enormous environmental, economic and political consequences.

In Macondo, a fictional South American city in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel, "One Hundred Years of Solitude," the fantastical and the improbable are the norm.

Marquez's novel follows seven generations of a family after founding the once-utopian town that crumbles amid isolation, abuse of power, technology gone bad, a massacre, and even incest that produces a child with a pig's tail.

Frances Negron-Muntaner, a literature professor at Columbia University, said differences outnumber similarities between the two Macondos, but the crossover is notable.

"In both narratives there is a region that is hit with large-scale environmental devastation that culminates -- or is feared to end -- in the destruction of a way of life," she said.

"In Macondo you have rains that last for years. In the Gulf, an enveloping slick of oil."

Geologists name Gulf oilfields for security reasons before they buy leases to explore and produce from the sites, said David Rensink, president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

Such names prevent competitors at the next table in a restaurant from knowing the exact field location if they overhear estimates of how much oil might be there, he said.

A BP employee named the Macondo well after winning that right as part of a United Way fundraiser, BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said. He did not know whether the name came from the Nobel prize-winning author's novel.

BP once faced trouble over another Gulf oilfield's original name. Thunder Horse, which has the world's largest oil and gas platform, originally was Crazy Horse, for Neil Young's rock band.

Descendants of the Lakota Sioux warrior balked because their beliefs held that the name could be used only in a spiritual context. BP apologized and changed the name to Thunder Horse in 2002.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

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