Thursday, May 20, 2010

Researcher Says BP Spill Is 70,000 - 120,000 Barrels/Day

May 19: The House Energy & Commerce Committee, Environment and Energy Subcommittee, Chaired by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) held a hearing entitled, Sizing up the BP Oil Spill: Science and Engineering Measuring Methods. Witnesses testifying before the Subcommittee included: Steve Wereley, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University; Richard Camilli, Associate Scientist, Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Michael Freilich, Director of the Earth Science Division, NASA; and Frank Muller-Karger, Professor of Biological Oceanography and Remote Sensing, University of South Florida.
    Prior to the hearing Chairman Markey had sent a letter to BP America's CEO Lamar McKay asking that the company make a live stream of video from the oil leak site publicly available to give unfettered access of the accident and recovery to scientists and the American public. Markey said BP currently has several remotely controlled submersibles taking video of the accident site 24 hours a day, but has only released a fraction of the video. Markey also sent a letter to Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard on the matter.

    Markey said in the letter, "Allowing the public to view this video could provide our best scientists and engineers with information that could be helpful in developing much needed solutions to the ongoing oil spill, both in terms of subsea operations and surface spill response. Congress and the American public have the right to know what is happening in real time, so that they can understand and react to the situation as it develops."

    While BP and government officials continue to claim that the best estimate of the flow rate of the Gulf oil spill is 5,000 barrels per day [See WIMS 5/19/10], Steve Wereley from Purdue University said he is confident that the rate is an "order of magnitude" higher than the BP estimate. He said, he can see no scenario where the BP estimate is accurate. He said his current estimate is in the range of 70,000 to 120,000 barrels per day. Also, while BP and government officials have also testified that they are not that concerned about the rate of the leak because they are already responding to a "worst case" situation; the research experts seem to all dispute that position and agreed that the flow rate of the leak would be important to know. Other witnesses testified on satellite mapping of the oil spill and the dynamics of the "loop current," as well as concerns about contamination under the surface and a water column of contamination that may exist.

    On May 20, BP reported the volume of oil and gas being collected by the riser insertion tube tool (RITT) containment system at the end of the leaking riser is estimated to be about 3,000 barrels a day (b/d) of oil and some 14 million standard cubic feet a day of gas. The oil is being stored and gas is being flared on the drillship Discoverer Enterprise. BP said this remains a new technology and both its continued operation and its effectiveness in capturing the oil and gas remain uncertain. BP also said it continues to develop options to shut off the flow of oil from the well through interventions via the failed Blowout Preventer (BOP).

    Access the hearing website and link to all testimony and a webcast (click here). Access a release from Chairman Markey before and after the hearing (click here) and (click here). Access the Markey letter to BP and the Coast Guard (click here) and (click here). Access Markey's Global Warming website for the live video feed which (click here). Access a release from BP (click here). Access the BP response website (click here). Access the Unified Command website for the latest updates (click here). [*Energy/Oil, *Water, *Wildlife]

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