(AFP) – Jun 20, 2010
WASHINGTON — A key US congressman released an internal BP document Sunday showing up to 100,000 barrels of oil could be leaking into the Gulf of Mexico each day, up to 20 times more than it estimated in public.
The oil giant's own worst-case scenario was based on the consequences of removing both the ruptured wellhead now lying on the bottom of the seafloor and a key set of valves known as a blowout preventer (BOP), as well as incorrectly calculating the restrictions.
According to US government estimates, some 30,000 to 65,000 barrels are escaping on a daily basis, soiling once-pristine Gulf Coast shorelines, killing wildlife and putting a major dent in the region's multi-billion-dollar fishing industry.
At the time the document was provided to lawmakers in May, BP was telling the public that 5,000 barrels a day were spewing into the Gulf waters and told lawmakers that up to 60,000 barrels could leak, according to Democratic Representative Ed Markey, who released two pages of the file.
Markey, who chairs the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, accused the firm of lying to Congress in order to reduce its liabilities.
In the document, which is itself undated, BP said its minimum estimate under such a scenario was 55,000 barrels gushing out of the well each day.
"If BOP and wellhead are removed and if we have incorrectly modeled the restrictions -- the rate could be as high as (approximately) 100,000 barrels per day up the casing or 55,000 barrels per day up the annulus (low probability worst cases)," it said.
Markey, a vocal critic of BP and its handling of the disaster, lit out against the firm he said was "either lying or grossly incompetent."
"First they said it was only 1,000 barrels, then they said it was 5,000 barrels, now we're up to 100,000 barrels," he told NBC's "Meet the Press."
"It was their technology, it was their spill camp, they're the ones that should have known right from the beginning; and either to limit their liability or because they were grossly incompetent, they delayed a full response to the magnitude of this disaster."
BP rejected the charge, noting that the conditions it had stated for the worst-case scenario to develop were not in place then, and are not in place now.
"It's completely misrepresenting what were saying," BP spokesman Robert Wine said about Markey's reaction.
"We were saying that if two conditions were met simultaneously -- one that we got the modeling restrictions wrong and if the blowout preventer were removed -- then we could have 100,000 barrels of oil."
He told AFP the estimate "has nothing with the amount of oil that's actually escaping at the moment."
According to Wine, "there is no way the BOP is being moved" because the valve system plays a critical role in the collection effort, estimated to be retrieving or burning up to some 25,000 barrels of fresh crude each day.
"The blowout preventer is being kept in place and is not being moved until we can guarantee to the authorities and the public at large that the well is being killed and poses no threat," he added.
US lawmakers have assailed BP for its response to the worst oil spill in US history, which began with an April 20 explosion of its deepwater rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »