Sensors to calculate oil flow rate deployed


Sensors to measure the pressure of oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico were being deployed Sunday to give the government a better idea of how much oil is flowing, according to the Obama administration’s point man on the environmental disaster.

Researchers recently doubled estimates of how much oil has been flowing from the ruptured well, saying last week that up to 40,000 barrels — or 1.7 million gallons — a day may have leaked for weeks.

Sensors will be placed at the pipe and will help in estimating the flow rate, said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen.

“We actually are going to be deploying sensors down there today that will start taking pressure readings,” Allen said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“We think we need some independent pressure readings to validate the estimates that have been made by the scientists looking at the video and some other acoustic data,” he said.

The development comes ahead of President Obama’s next visit to the Gulf, slated for Monday and Tuesday. He is to visit the states affected by the oil spill before addressing the nation from the White House on the next steps in responding to the environmental catastrophe, his senior adviser said Sunday.

BP has captured some of the gushing oil through a containment cap that has been pumping the crude up to a drilling ship for about a week. It collected 15,500 barrels, or 651,000 gallons, on Friday and has been able to remove a total of 104,300 barrels, or about 4.4 million gallons, from Gulf waters so far.

But despite this advance, pressure on BP has not eased.

A White House official on Sunday said that Obama will push BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg at a meeting this week to create a BP-funded escrow account that will pay for a damage claims process administered by an independent third party.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said he didn’t care whether an escrow account was set up, as long as those affected get paid.

“We have to do something,” Riley said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“If you look at what’s going on with the economy and the state of Alabama and Mississippi, Louisiana, and now Florida, we’re going to have to have some level of compensation, because our tourist season here is essentially from Memorial Day to Labor Day. And with the beaches the way they are this morning, it’s going to be very, very difficult to sustain the economic balance that we’ve had in the past,” he said.

Riley also criticized Obama’s handling of the disaster, saying the response effort appears disjointed.

“You can’t have a committee making the decisions that are going to impact this entire coastal area. You can’t have someone come in and say, well, if it gets onto the beach, we’ll clean it up and we’ll clean it up rapidly, and then OSHA come in and say, well, the people can’t work but 20 minutes out of an hour or two hours a day, and get it cleaned up. Someone is going to have to be in charge of each one of these operations,” he said.

Also, in a letter released Sunday, the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia, asked Allen to ensure that the blowout preventer that failed on the Deepwater Horizon be recovered as evidence as the government investigates potential legal action arising from the spill.

“Clearly, answers to questions regarding the inspection, maintenance and operation of the blowout preventer will be key factors in investigation and subsequent legal action,” the letter states.

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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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