Source: EPA Will Agree to Cut BP Oil Spill Estimate

I know I keep saying it, but I told you so.  The Observer is reporting that, according to its sources, the EPA is likely to agree to cut its current estimate of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico by BP’s Macondo well that blew out on April 20.  BP has officially disputed the government’s estimate, saying that it could be half of the official estimate, citing multiple estimates and lack of actual measurement of the flow.  The Observer is reporting that the EPA agrees that estimates are not 100% accurate, signalling the weakness of the government’s position.

You’ll recall that I repeatedly rang the alarm bell in the middle of July that BP was foot dragging the containment of the flow and the fabrication of facilities that could have captured (and measured) 100% of the flow rate.  When the US government agreed that the well would be shut in for the “well integrity test” on July 13, the opportunity to actually measure the total flow was lost forever.  BP knew that no government official would have the intestinal fortitude to ever risk releasing more oil into the environment, and won the Battle of the Flow Estimate when Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen agreed to the high risk operation of shutting in the well without proper contingency plans and inadequate containment facilities in place.  Remember that EPA fines are determined by the amount of oil released into the environment, so it remains in BP’s interest to minimize that amount.  As feared, it appears that they are going to win this battle.

If BP gets away with reducing the flow estimate to half of the current estimate, it will be a masterful manipulation of government regulators and inexperienced administration officials.    It appears that with the media now completely ignoring this tragedy, BP will successfully lowball the flow to minimize its liability.  To give you an idea of the size of this issue, let’s look at a few numbers: 

First, the official government estimate for flow into the Gulf is 4.9 million barrels, or about 60,000 barrels per day (this estimate is likely way low due to flow characteristics of these big deepwater wells, but that fact just complicates an already complicated subject, so I’ll ignore it for now).  Second, at the peak of it’s “top hat” containment, BP was capturing about 25,000 barrels of oil per day, even as oil roared into the water around the cap.  Here’s a little video to remind you of what it looked like at the time:

So.  If BP is now claiming that the flow rate was half the estimated 60,000 barrels per day, that means that when they were capturing 25,000 barrels per day, they were capturing close to all of the flow.  I don’t know about you, but all that oil roaring into the water around the cap looks like a lot more than nothing.  Additionally, recall that on July 6, Doug Suttles actually used 53,000 barrels per day as his estimate of flow for the calculation of the amount of dispersant BP wanted to apply at the sea floor.  To now assert that the flow rate was half of the government estimate, and far below their own estimate is disingenuous on the face.  It appears that when inexperienced administration officials faced BP’s steely-eyed negotiators on this issue, they were buffaloed into shutting in the well without measuring the flow.  Once again, said steely-eyed negotiators out-negotiated the government negotiators.

So the die is cast.  Without media focus on this tragedy, there’s nothing any of us can do about this miscarriage of justice.  BP wins again.

Oh.  BTW.  BP turned a profit of $1.79 billion in the third quarter of 2010, at the height of the oil spill crisis.  Bob Dudley, BP CEO, is expected to soon communicate to his shareholders that the $39 billion reserve established by the company in 2010 will be more than enough to cover the costs of the blowout and resulting spill clean up.

And the beat goes on.

Bob Cavnar, a 30-year veteran of the oil and gas industry, is the author of Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout. He is CEO of Luca Technologies.

 

Comments

  1. WindorSolarPlease says

    Quote: If BP gets away with reducing the flow estimate to half of the current estimate, it will be a masterful manipulation of government regulators and inexperienced administration officials.
    Since I believed you all along and I can even some what understand what BP is doing, officials who is a lot more intelligent than I am, then I am sure they can see it also.
    Fact of life in all Countries, there is always some corruption. There has been a lot of corruption going on with this Gulf Disaster. We don’t even know the half of it. I just wish it would stop.
    I am not tired of hearing information. I’m tired of how this disaster has been handled from day one.

  2. Shortstuff says

    You’ve been saying this all along. Sooooooooo disgusted with them.
    I think we need to make signs that say “Bob was right” and take them to DC.
    You da man, Bob!

  3. doug says

    Any thoughts Bob, on the overall environmental impact of the spill yet? Are we getting any indications now if the oil is entering the food chain as some have speculated?
    Just so you and others know, I’ve been very active commenting on your site, and I appreciate it a lot. I’ve just gotten too busy with things to be able to keep up at the pace I have. I hope to check in from time to time. Thanks again Bob for your site, and thanks to all the other bloggers and commenters here (:

  4. carguy says

    As my great, great, great, great uncle, Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, once said, “You can’t trust the British. They are lying bastards. Sacre bleu.”

  5. carguy says

    As my great, great, great, great uncle, Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, once said, “You can’t trust the British. They are lying bastards. Sacre bleu.”

  6. Gail White Scoggins says

    You hit the nail right on the head. “BP will successfully lowball the flow to minimize its liability.” I’m sure this is only one of BP’s many egregious strategies! With the flow reduced, the mitigating damages are reduced.
    Miscarriage of justice indeed.

  7. carguy says

    That is to say, he was removed from my great, great, great, great AUNT Beatrice. But, not before he sired my great, great, great, uncle Charles du Motier.
    ..
    Where is everybody?????

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