BP documents expose initial low-ball oil flow calculations (VIDEO)


A leading oceanographer’s recent journal article sheds some light on how BP came up with the idea that its busted deep sea well was leaking just 5,000 barrels of oil a day, which served as the official estimate for the first month of the disaster.

Florida State University’s Ian MacDonald contends that if BP and the federal government’s spill responders at the Unified Command had used the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s own method for measuring surface oil based on sheen and color, they would have known much earlier the oil was coming out of the Macondo well at a rate of at least 26,000 barrels of oil a day.

Instead, documents released to MacDonald by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., show that BP used a different standard to measure the surface oil and convinced the NOAA scientists not to use NOAA’s standards, the ones endorsed by an international agreement.

BP and the Coast Guard have long contended that the 5,000-barrel-a-day figure was never their guiding light for fighting the spill and that they brought all of their resources to bear as soon as they could. As it turned out, final official estimates determined the well was spewing about 62,000 barrels of oil a day at the start and it took 87 days for responders to finally cap it.

MacDonald’s findings, featuring a heavy dose of “I told you so,” were outlined in more detail in Justin Gillis’ Green Blog this morning on the New York Times website.

Here’s what BP COO Doug Suttles said about the oil flow estimates and the process of determining the oil flow in a meeting with The Times-Picayune on Sept. 2, 2010: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2011/02/bp_documents_expose_initial_lo.html

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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