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The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming addressed our nation's energy, economic and national security challenges during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

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Markey to BP: After Well Shut-in Tests Complete, Measure Full Flow

With 100% Containment Possible, Total Measurement Vital, Says Chairman; Pressure Measurements from Current Tests Will Provide Additional Flow Data

July 15, 2010 – After several delays in the process to test the new cap system for the BP oil spill, the procedure has begun to see if the cap can completely shut in the well. When BP resumes collection of the oil after the tests, there will be yet another opportunity to more precisely measure the full flow of the oil.

When that collection resumes, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today called upon BP yet again to conduct a full accounting of the flow rate of the oil well to determine the size of the spill. Rep. Markey demanded such an action from BP in a letter sent to Lamar McKay, CEO of BP America.

During the current shutting of the well, pressure tests will also provide data to determine the size and magnitude of the oil and gas flow.

“In the event that additional oil collection should prove necessary, BP must collect and measure 100 percent of the hydrocarbons flowing from the well so that we can determine the actual flow rate once and for all,” writes Rep. Markey, who chairs the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“I am concerned that without such a monitored collection effort, which must be conducted under supervision of the Flow Rate Technical Group, we may never be able to provide a definitive answer to the question of how much oil has actually been released.  Although there have been numerous estimates and projections for flow rate, nothing will be more conclusive than actual collection of 100 percent of the oil and methane that is now flowing from the well,” continues Rep. Markey.

Currently, the Flow Rate Technical Group estimates the flow rate to be somewhere in a wide range between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day. More precise measurements would allow the federal government to have a more accurate and realistic picture of the amount of oil that has flowed from the well since it blew out in April. BP could be fined up to $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, in the case of gross negligence. That means an error of just 10,000 barrels a day in the final assessment of the spill could result in a difference of $3.6 billion in fines.

While the well may be shut in for several days to conduct pressure tests, it is likely that BP will release the well again and restart containment efforts, in part to assess the testing of the shut-in system.

With several containment ships now in place, including the Helix, the Q4000 and others, BP has claimed it would eventually be able to collect up to 80,000 barrels of oil per day, or 20,000 barrels per day more than the high end estimate from the Flow Rate Technical Group. Therefore, the potential for 100 percent collection and measurement should be feasible, although questions remain on when this full capacity would be available. Today Admiral Allen said that full containment capacity could be reached by July 24th.

In the letter, Rep. Markey states that “if BP determines that the appropriate path is to fully shut in the well, until the relief well is completed, then we would not want to delay such a process in any way.”

Below are the questions Rep. Markey asks in the letter, which is available HERE:

  1. In the event that BP does not shut in the well completely, will BP agree to collect, under the supervision of the Flow Rate Technical Group, the full volume of oil and methane being released from the well for a period of time sufficient to make a reliable determination of the 24 hour flow rate?  If not, why not?
  2. Is the three ram capping stack exerting backpressure on the well? If so, please provide the pressure readings necessary to determine the full unimpeded flow rate.
  3. Does BP at present have in place at the surface sufficient collection capability to collect 100 percent of the oil from the well and to measure and determine the volume of that oil?
  4. If not, what is the current collection capacity and when will sufficient collection capacity be available? 

PLEASE NOTE: The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming was created to explore American clean energy solutions that end our reliance on foreign oil and reduce carbon pollution.

The Select Committee was active during the 110th and 111th Congresses. This is an archived version of the website, to ensure that the public has ongoing access to the Select Committee record. This website, including external links, will not be updated after Jan. 3rd, 2010.

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