Calculations of Gulf Spill Volume Are Questioned - NYTimes.com
Ian R. MacDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University who is an expert in the analysis of oil slicks, said he had made his own rough calculations using satellite imagery. They suggested that the leak could “easily be four or five times” the government estimate, he said.
“The government has a responsibility to get good numbers,” Dr. MacDonald said. “If it’s beyond their technical capability, the whole world is ready to help them.”
Scientists said that the size of the spill was directly related to the amount of damage it would do in the ocean and onshore, and that calculating it accurately was important for that reason.
BP has repeatedly said that its highest priority is stopping the leak, not measuring it. “There’s just no way to measure it,” Kent Wells, a BP senior vice president, said in a recent briefing.Hmmmm.... yeah, it wouldn't help anyone to know how much oil we're actually dealing with.Richard Camilli and Andy Bowen, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, who have routinely made such measurements, spoke extensively to BP last week, Mr. Bowen said. They were poised to fly to the gulf to conduct volume measurements.
But they were contacted late in the week and told not to come, at around the time BP decided to lower a large metal container to try to capture the leak. That maneuver failed. They have not been invited again.
“The government and BP are calling the shots, so I will have to respect their judgment,” Dr. Camilli said.
BP did not respond Thursday to a question about why Dr. Camilli and Mr. Bowen were told to stand down. Speaking more broadly about the company’s policy on measuring the leak, a spokesman, David H. Nicholas, said in an e-mail message that “the estimated rate of flow would not affect either the direction or scale of our response, which is the largest in history.”
And yet, earlier BP estimated the well could be as large as 100 million barrels!The issue of how fast the well is leaking has been murky from the beginning. For several days after the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, the government and BP claimed that the well on the ocean floor was leaking about 1,000 barrels a day.
A small organization called SkyTruth, which uses satellite images to monitor environmental problems, published an estimate on April 27 suggesting that the flow rate had to be at least 5,000 barrels a day, and probably several times that.
The following day, the government — over public objections from BP — raised its estimate to 5,000 barrels a day. A barrel is 42 gallons, so the estimate works out to 210,000 gallons per day.
BP later acknowledged to Congress that the worst case, if the leak accelerated, would be 60,000 barrels a day, a flow rate that would dump a plume the size of the Exxon Valdez spill into the gulf every four days. BP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, has estimated that the reservoir tapped by the out-of-control well holds at least 50 million barrels of oil.
That's amazing. An oil company doesn't think it's important to know how much oil is spewing into our ocean because of their incompetence. And these are the people our gov't, yes Bush and Obama, has allowed to skirt common sense and industry accepted safety measures trusting that they will do the right thing. Uh huh.Environmental groups contend, however, that the flow rate is a vital question. Since this accident has shattered the illusion that deep-sea oil drilling is immune to spills, they said, this one is likely to become the touchstone in planning a future response.
“If we are systematically underestimating the rate that’s being spilled, and we design a response capability based on that underestimate, then the next time we have an event of this magnitude, we are doomed to fail again,” said John Amos, the president of SkyTruth. “So it’s really important to get this number right.”