JULY 25, 2010: BP Provides Other Toxics Totals

Will Same Mud Formulation Be Used in "Bullhead Kill" and Future Oil Company Operations?

WASHINGTON (July 25, 2010) – Responding to questions from Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.) after BP CEO Tony Hayward’s congressional testimony in June, BP has now admitted that Hayward was wrong when he claimed that the drilling mud used by BP had no toxicity.

Tens of thousands of barrels of the drilling mud were used during the failed attempt to kill the well in late May, most of which likely escaped back into the ocean. During Hayward’s testimony on June 17, 2010 before the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Markey pushed the BP executive to disclose the ingredients of the drilling mud, which Rep. Markey noted had some of the same dangerous chemicals as antifreeze.

In response, Hayward said, "I believe all of the mud that had gone into the ocean is water-based mud with no toxicity whatsoever." The full transcript of the hearing is available at the following link (the specific exchange on this question can be found on pages 110-111): http://energycommerce.house.gov/documents/20100617/transcript.06.17.2010.oi.pdf

However, in one answer delivered to Reps. Markey and Capps by BP late Friday, the company notes that Hayward erred in his testimony, and that the mud does contain ethylene glycol (a highly toxic chemical used in anti-freeze), as well as caustic soda (a highly corrosive chemical commonly known as lye).

The question remains whether the same formulation of mud will be used in the possible "bullhead kill" as well as during the relief well operations. If these operations go as planned, little or no drilling mud should escape into the ocean. However, the two Representatives wondered whether drilling mud containing toxic chemicals is used in a widespread manner by the oil and gas industry.

"Tens of thousands of barrels of toxic drilling mud were shot into the ocean during BP’s failed top kill attempt," said Rep. Markey. "Do all drilling activities involve the use of highly toxic formulations? If so, how many tens of thousands of barrels more may have been sent into our waters or onshore wells in even the most standard of operations?"

"Time and time again, BP has failed to disclose critical data and information that is essential to our ability to track the long term effects of this spill. The bill I introduced with Mr. Markey to give subpoena power to the independent commission investigating the spill passed the House nearly unanimously but continues to languish in the Senate. This is yet another reason for Senate Republicans to grant the commission this critical tool," said Rep. Capps.

The full response from BP is available here: http://globalwarming.house.gov/files/LTTR/2010-07-23_ResponseTo2001-06-14_MarkeyCappsLetter.pdf.

Along with the response on toxic drilling mud (question 3), the response from BP includes information about the volumes of methanol (a highly toxic chemical) used in well operations, and answers to questions on methane and air quality measurements and worker chemical exposures, among other issues.

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