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As much as 100,000 barrels of oil a day; at least 4.5 bln cubic feet of methane since April 20

When President Obama gave his speech last week, the only actual course of action he offered was to pray. I’m starting to think that maybe that really is our only chance. From Reuters via The New York Times:

An internal BP Plc document released on Sunday by a senior U.S. congressional Democrat shows that the company estimates that a worst-case scenario rate for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill could be about 100,000 barrels of oil per day.

The estimate of 100,000 barrels (4.2 million gallons/15.9 million liters) of oil per day is far higher than the current U.S. government estimate of up to 60,000 barrels (2.5 million gallons/9.5 million liters) per day gushing from the ruptured offshore well into the sea.

The document, which is undated, was released by U.S. Representative Ed Markey, chairman of the energy and environment subcommittee of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.

The amount of oil actually gushing from the well has been a matter of considerable controversy since the spill began on April 20, with critics saying BP has understated the flow rate.

4.2 MILLION gallons every 24 hours. Anyone else remember the halcyon days when we were solemnly assured that the leak was only 1,000 barrels a day, 5,000 at the absolute maximum? Perhaps this is why British Petroleum has been working so damned hard to keep scientists and specialists — you know, people who could see what is actually happening and cannot be forced to hide evidence — away from the well head and away from the slick and the polluted beaches.

UPDATE: The British newspaper The Guardian is reporting that Rep. Ed Markey has accused British Petroleum of deliberately lying to Congress in an effort to reduce its liability. From the article:

BP has been accused by a senior US politician of lying to Congress to reduce its liabilities, after an internal company document showed that the oil giant’s own worst-case assessment of the size of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico was 20 times its public estimate.

In the document, BP attempts to put a figure on the rate of oil spewing into the ocean. It notes that if the condition of the well bore deteriorates to the extent that crucial parts fall off, the rate could reach 100,000 barrels a day.


From the beginning BP had either been lying to limit their liability or were “grossly incompetent”, delaying a “full response to the magnitude of this disaster”.

The document makes clear that the likelihood of the crucial bits of equipment – the blow-out preventer and wellhead – being removed from the well was low. But the fact that BP itself estimated the worst possible leak in the Gulf at 100,000 barrels a day, in contrast to its own lower public estimates, adds to the growing sense in Washington that the company has not been fully transparent over the scale of the disaster.

More below the fold

Now, to be honest, this is a worst case scenario which assumes that a key component in the well head, the blowout preventer, gets removed. From what I remember, it was the blowout preventer that failed and caused the explosion in the first place; there was talk a while back of removing it in an effort to replace it.

The document itself is available — for now — here.

As for the methane problem I mentioned in an earlier diary entry, the US Geological Survey is now estimating that at least 4.5 billion cubic feet of methane, and possibly up to 9 billion cubic feet, has been released from the leak since the blowout on April 20. That is based on the estimate that 2,900 cubic feet of the gas are escaping with every barrel of oil. From the Associated Press via Google News:

A BP spokesman said the company was burning about 30 million cubic feet of natural gas daily on a ship at the surface, adding up to about 450 million cubic feet since the containment effort started.

But that figure does not account for gas that eluded containment efforts and wound up in the water, leaving behind huge amounts of methane. Scientists are still trying to determine how it could damage the Gulf and its creatures.

The high-pressure seafloor leak is spewing like a fire hose, causing oil and gas to dissolve into tiny droplets that are less likely to rise to the surface. Adding to the effect, more than a million gallons of chemical dispersants have been pumped into the gusher by BP – a bid to stop oil from reaching the coast that comes at the expense of the Gulf’s deeper waters.

Meanwhile, state legislators in Louisiana have taken to heart the one actual proposed course of action from his speech last week. From CNN

While cleanup crews and technical teams continue efforts to stop crude gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana lawmakers are proposing a different approach: prayer.

State senators designated Sunday as a day for citizens to ask for God’s help dealing with the oil disaster.

“Thus far efforts made by mortals to try to solve the crisis have been to no avail,” state Sen. Robert Adley said in a statement released after last week’s unanimous vote for the day of prayer. “It is clearly time for a miracle for us.”

The resolution names Sunday as a statewide day of prayer in Louisiana and calls on people of all religions throughout the Gulf Coast “to pray for an end to this environmental emergency, sparing us all from the destruction of both culture and livelihood.”

Pray away the oil? Apparently the expectation is that, with enough ferverent prayer, the tar balls will turn into manna, the dead animals will be raised back to life, the oil will turn into wine and coastal waters will become a veritable Eden of shrimp, shellfish and sea turtles just like it was in days of yore.

I suppose prayer is a lot easier that picking up a rake or grabbing a bucket and a bottle of Dawn dishwashing detergent.

The problem is that, as the scope of the disaster continues to expand, I have to wonder if prayer might not be the closest thing to a realistic course of action we have.

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Gregory Gadow

Gregory Gadow