Hayward, BP Pushed by Chairman to Ascertain Better Overall Flow Number
WASHINGTON (June 6, 2010) -- Following claims that the new containment method is capturing 10,000 barrels a day, and comments from BP CEO Tony Hayward indicating BP expects to eventually capture "the vast majority" of the oil, Rep. Edward J. Markey today sent a letter to BP asking for clarification on the total amount of oil that is coming out of the well. Rep. Markey, who has continually pressed for better numbers on the size of the oil gusher, said the government and the American people need to know the true size of the leak to coordinate a proper response and to correctly calculate BP's potential fines that would result from the spilled oil.
Rep. Markey also queried BP on whether the company took efforts to measure the flow after the cutting of the sunken riser pipe, but before the current containment system was put in place. He also asked what BP plans to do with the siphoned oil.
"At this time, BP appears to know how much oil is being captured, which is encouraging. Yet BP still does not appear to know precisely how much oil is actually escaping, which is discouraging," writes Rep. Markey in the letter to BP America CEO Lamar McKay. Rep. Markey chairs the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. "Estimating the size of the spill at the source, instead of when it approaches the shore, continues to be the best way to gauge the leak."
Rep. Markey notes in the letter that a proper flow rate can help inform the Obama administration's coordinated efforts to respond to BP's spill. He also reminds BP in the letter that they will face potential fines of up to $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled.
The letter to BP is pasted below:
June 6, 2010
Mr. Lamar McKay
President and CEO,
BP America, Inc.
501 Westlake Park Boulevard
Houston, Texas, 70779
Dear Mr. McKay:
BP has now completed severing the broken riser pipe from the Deepwater Horizon well and has placed a cap on the top of the blowout preventer. BP has now begun to collect oil through this cap. However, as is evident from the live video feeds being shot on the ocean floor, substantial quantities of oil continue to escape from around the sides of the cap and from vents on the cap. These video feeds have also shown BP applying subsea dispersant into the gushing oil plumes escaping from around the cap.
The critical question at this time is: “how much oil is escaping into the environment?” BP CEO Tony Hayward has indicated that the cap is capturing 10,000 barrels per day. Mr. Hayward has also indicated that he expects soon to be able to capture “the vast majority” of the oil spewing from the well. However, conservative official estimates of the flow rate indicated that prior to the severing of the riser, somewhere between 12,000-19,000 barrels of oil were flowing from the well. In addition, government officials have suggested that by severing the kinked and broken riser pipe, flow rates could increase by up to 20 percent.
At this time, BP appears to know how much oil is being captured, which is encouraging. Yet BP still does not appear to know precisely how much oil is actually escaping, which is discouraging. Estimating the size of the spill at the source, instead of when it approaches the shore, continues to be the best way to gauge the leak. We need to know the amount of total oil flowing from the well, taking into account both the amount of oil being collected, and the amount being released into the ocean environment. This is critical, not only in terms of the efficacy of the temporary cap solution, but also in terms of the size and extent of the needed spill response and the ultimate effects on the environment. Finally, accurate flow rate information will be required to determine BP’s financial liability in terms of fines, which could be as high as $4,300 per barrel.
Therefore please answer the following questions immediately:
1) What is the total estimated volume of oil flowing from the well, taking into account both the amount of oil being captured and the amount of oil that is being released into the ocean? What is the basis for this estimate?
2) Prior to placement of the cap, but after complete severing of the riser pipe, did BP estimate the volume of flow from the well? Did BP determine whether the severing of the riser pipe did, in fact, increase the overall amount of flow? If so, by what percentage did the flow increase? If not when will BP perform this calculation? Please take account of any such calculation in the answer to question 1.
3) With regard to the estimate of 10,000 barrels of oil per day being recovered, is the material being recovered at the surface just oil or is it a mix of oil, seawater and other materials? How does the answer to this question affect your response to question 1? Is the 10,000 barrels per day estimate for just oil?
4) What is BP going to do with the oil it is recovering?
Edward J. Markey
Energy and Environment Subcommittee
Energy and Commerce Committee
CC: Honorable Henry Waxman, Chairman
Honorable Joe Barton, Ranking Member
Honorable Fred Upton, Ranking Member