4.9 million barrels of oil…estimate too low? BP made sure we’d never know

Must...stop...the...leak...

Turns out the government’s estimate of 4.9 million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico may not be as entirely accurate as we were all led to believe. This really should come as no surprise, especially when it is understood the estimate translates directly into fines…money, and more importantly, British Petroleum’s money.

For each barrel of oil leaked into the Gulf, BP must pay a fine of $1100 dollars per barrel if they are found to be negligent in the Deepwater Horizon Catastraphuk. If they are found to be grossly negligible, that fine raises to $4400 dollars per barrel which at the 4.1 million barrel estimate (BP claims to have removed 800,000 barrels through containment operations) puts BP’s fine anywhere between $4.5 to $17.6 billion dollars. This is in addition to the $20 billion reparation fund BP has set up to pay people who are financially damaged by the spill.

BP’s motivation from day one to was ensure nobody ever recorded an accurate estimate of the oil amounts released into the Gulf and those estimates have been flying since day one: 5000 barrels of oil, then 10,000 despite the Coast Guard and British Petroleum both privately estimating the flow at a low rate of 36,000 and as high as 60,000. So when the Flow Rate Technical Group finally established the rates that led to 4.9 milion barrels of oil, some might have expected howls of protest from the powers that be at BP.

Instead…all we got was chirp, chirp, chirp, crickets in an oil-field…little to nothing.

Regarding the potential low-ball of the official estimate, Jason Linkins in an article on Huffingtonpost cites this exchange from NPR:

BP has said repeatedly that there is no reliable way to measure the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by looking at the oil gushing out of the pipe. But scientists say there are actually many proven techniques for doing just that. Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, analyzed videotape of the seafloor gusher using a technique called particle image velocimetry. A computer program simply tracks particles and calculates how fast they are moving. Wereley put the BP video of the gusher into his computer. He made a few simple calculations and came up with an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill: 70,000 barrels a day — much higher than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day. The method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent.

Given that uncertainty, the amount of material spewing from the pipe could range from 56,000 barrels to 84,000 barrels a day. It is important to note that it’s not all oil. The short video BP released starts out with a shot of methane, but at the end it seems to be mostly oil. “There’s potentially some fluctuation back and forth between methane and oil,” Wereley said. But assuming that the lion’s share of the material coming out of the pipe is oil, Wereley’s calculations show that the official estimates are too low.

In addition…back on May 4th, during a briefing with Rep. Ed Markey, BP officials stated that a maximum estimated flow would be 60,000 barrels a day. So, in light of the new numbers, Markey concluded, “BP’s initial worst case scenario has been the reality since day one of this disaster.” The new federal estimate concludes that at the beginning of the spill, 62,000 barrels of oil per day were spewing out of the well, with that number decreasing to 53,000 barrels just before it was capped. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee, called attention in a statement Monday night to what a coincidence those figures were.

This was back in May and the idea that British Petroleum has never internally established an accurate count is ridiculous. They have been running this show from the beginning, so one wonders, when the new numbers came out and BP barely reacted, could this be because they know the numbers are higher?

What did British Petroleum just get away with, again?

Read the article…

Final Deepwater Horizon Flow Rate Estimate is Likely Too Low, Which Benefits BP

Have a nice day.

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