BP foresaw possibility that well could leak 4.2m gallons a day

By Ray Henry
Associated Press / June 21, 2010

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NEW ORLEANS — Newly released internal documents show BP estimated that 4.2 million gallons of oil a day could gush from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico if all equipment restricting the flow was removed and company models were wrong.

Representative Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, released the documents yesterday, showing BP said in a worst-case outcome that the leak could gush between 2.3 million and 4.2 million gallons (about 100,000 barrels) of oil per day.

The current worst-case estimate of what’s leaking is 2.5 million gallons a day.

“Right from the beginning, BP was either lying or grossly incompetent,’’ Markey said. “First they said it was only 1,000. Then they said it was 5,000 barrels. Now we’re up to 100,000 barrels.’’

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,’’ Markey said that when the company submitted the documents to Congress, it was publicly estimating 5,000 barrels a day. BP officials told lawmakers at the time that the worst-case outcome would be 60,000 barrels a day.

“It was their technology. It was their spill cam,’’ Markey said. “They are the ones that should have known right from the beginning and either to limit their liability or because they were grossly incompetent they delayed a full response to the magnitude of this disaster.’’

BP spokesman Tony Odone said the company was not underestimating the size of the spill.

He said the internal documents were submitted to Congress before BP America president Lamar McKay testified in early May. At that hearing, McKay was asked about internal documents giving a worst-case estimate of 2.5 million gallons a day.

The documents project a situation in which the blowout preventer and other equipment on the sea floor were removed, which was never done. Company officials say they have no plans to remove the blowout preventer.

Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Bill Nelson of Florida said on CBS’s “Face the Nation’’ yesterday that they have asked President Obama to give the Navy a bigger role in the efforts to clean up the spill, which are now being overseen by the Coast Guard.

But asked on “Fox News Sunday’’ if the Pentagon could be doing more to help stop the leak or keep oil from washing up on shore, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said no. “We have offered whatever capabilities we have,’’ he said. “We don’t have the kinds of equipment or particular expertise.’’

Drilling crews on the Gulf of Mexico are grinding ever deeper to build the relief wells that are the best hope of stopping the massive oil leak at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

The crew of Transocean Ltd.’s Development Driller II finished pouring cement yesterday morning on a section of metal casing lining one of two relief wells now at roughly 5,000 feet, said Mickey Fruge, BP’s well site leader aboard the rig. When that cement is firm today, the rig’s crew will keep extending the well.

BP and government officials say the wells are the best option for cutting off the gusher that has spilled as much as 125 million gallons into the Gulf since the Transocean drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. A separate rig had drilled to a depth of nearly 11,000 feet, a BP spokesman said yesterday.

Coastal residents were infuriated by news that BP chief executive Tony Hayward was taking a break from overseeing efforts to stop the leak to watch his 52-foot yacht compete in a race around the Isle of Wight off southern England.

“Man, that ain’t right. None of us can even go out fishing, and he’s at the yacht races,’’ said Bobby Pitre, 33, who runs a tattoo shop in Larose, La. “I wish we could get a day off from the oil, too.’’

BP representatives rushed to defend Hayward, who has drawn biting criticism as the public face of BP’s halting efforts to stop the spill.

BP is responsible for the cleanup because it was leasing the rig when it blew up.

“He’s spending a few hours with his family at a weekend,’’ said BP spokesman Robert Wine. “I’m sure that everyone would understand that.’’

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