Thursday, May 20, 2010
British Petroleum Admits To Seriously Underestimating Gulf Oil Spill Rate; New Data Indicate Spill Rate Of Possibly 100,000 Barrels Per Day
May 17th satellite photo above shows the extent of spill. Large gray area in center of Gulf is sun glint. The bright gray area near the Louisiana coast is oil at the surface. The darker gray area surrounding and extending south-to-southeast like a dipper is heavy oil beneath the surface.
On May 20th, 2010, the Telegraph reports that British Petroleum now admits the well was gushing out more than the 5,000 barrels a day it had previously estimated. It could not give a new figure for the flow, three weeks after the Deepwater Horizon rig owned and operated by its contractor Transocean exploded and sank, killing 11 men. A Miami Herald report suggests that BP may be deliberately underestimating the spill rate in order to save the company millions of dollars in damages when the financial impact of the spill is resolved in court. You can also read an Anchorage Daily News story HERE.
BP is now siphoning 5,000 barrels a day up to a boat, but said although the flow had "noticeably reduced" there was still a plume of oil leaking into the ocean. But one scientist, Steve Wereley, associate mechanical engineering professor at Purdue University, believes as much as 70,000 barrels could be emerging per day, based on a video released by BP. SkyTruth, which previously published estimates of 200,000 barrels per day, now reports that scientists analyzing video of that main leak, apparently filmed on May 11th and released by BP on May 12th, have estimated the flow rate from that leak to be anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 barrels per day. BP will make another attempt to seal the well completely on Sunday May 23rd by attempting a technique known as "top kill" – injecting heavy drilling fluids and cement into into the leak at high pressure. If this fails, it may try a method known as a "junk shot" - pushing in debris such as golf balls.
BP has also been accused of underestimated prospective environmental damage as well. While Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, claimed earlier this week that the consequences for the coastal ecosystem appeared to be very, very modest, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar directly contradicted BP on Thursday by saying that the environmental impact of the massive oil spill could be catastrophic. Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) also shares that point of view, but his credibility is hindered somewhat by his previous knee-jerk opposition to opening up ANWR. On the other hand, the EPA may be hindering the cleanup process by demanding that BP stop using a chemical dispersant that the EPA’s own data suggests is unnecessarily toxic, and has given BP 24 hours to identify a less toxic alternative and 72 hours to begin using it.
Meanwhile, oil and dead fish are beginning to wash into marshes of Breton and Chandeleur Sounds along Louisiana's coast. On Wednesday, chocolate brown and vivid orange globs, sheets and ribbons of foul-smelling oil the consistency of latex paint began coating the reeds and grasses of Louisiana's wetlands. And cleaning up the maze of marshes, where there's nothing to stand on and shallow-bottomed boats are needed to navigated the narrow channels, is a logistical nightmare. Unlike a beach or rocky shore, crews can't just drive up with a backhoe or a mop. And there are plenty of places for frightened wildlife to hide from rescue workers as the oil slowly smothers them. Some experts suggest the best options may be to simply leave the oil there or, if the clumps are too thick, burn it off.
Can it get any worse for BP? Yes, it can...in the Last Frontier. The Anchorage Daily News reports that a group of BP stockholders have filed a lawsuit in Anchorage Superior Court against top BP officials, claiming that gross mismanagement has tarnished the company's reputation and hurt its value. The lawsuit alleges officials did not take the necessary steps to ensure BP compliance with safety rules and environmental safeguards. It cites cases including last month's oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico and concerns that U.S. lawmakers raised earlier this year about BP operations on Alaska's North Slope.