WASHINGTON DC (August 2, 2010) – Today the U.S. Scientific Team charged with determining the flow rate of oil gushing into the ocean from BP’s Deepwater Horizon well reported an updated estimate of the size of the spill. They narrowed the previous estimate of 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil per day to 53,000 barrels per day and calculated that the flow rate was as high as 62,000 barrels per day when the spill first began. The scientific team approximates that 4.9 million barrels of oil have been released from the well.
On April 28, BP officials had moved their public flow rate estimate from 1,000 barrels a day to 5,000. During a May 4th briefing to Members of Congress on the spill held by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), BP officials stated that a maximum estimated flow would be 60,000 barrels a day, with a mid-range estimate of 40,000 barrels a day in response to a question from Rep. Markey about the size of the worst-case flow rate.
“Today we learned that BP’s initial worst case scenario has been the reality since day one of this disaster,” said Rep. Markey, Chairman of Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the House of Representatives. “Had BP owned up to the size and magnitude of this oil spill from the very beginning, the government and families in the Gulf would have been better prepared to respond to this tragedy.”
Since May, Chairman Markey has been pressuring BP to allow outside experts and scientists access to information on the size of the oil spill. Markey called for the release of high definition undersea video footage, which helped determine the size of the spill, and ensured it was made available to the public.
“It took over 100 days and the pressure of flow rate calculations by independent scientists using high-definition undersea video to tell the world what BP most likely suspected from the start,” said Markey.
Additionally, last week Rep. Markey released documents indicating that BP assumed a flow rate of 53,000 barrels per day as early as July 6 when calculating how much dispersant to apply.
The flow rate of the well will have substantial financial implications for the company. Under current law, BP would have to pay a fine of at least $1,100 and up to $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, with the higher figure in the case of gross negligence being found against the company. So for every 10,000 barrels of oil spilled per day at $4,300 per barrel over the more than 80 days of oil spilled into the ocean, the fine would be more than $3.5 billion. The total size of the spill will also determine damages BP would have to pay for the spill’s effect on natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico.
“There is no joy in learning the true size of this horrific spill, but I hope that it will be a number that helps make families living and working in the Gulf coast whole once again,” said Markey.