Oil-spill flow rate estimate surges to 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day
The official estimate of the flow rate from the leaking gulf oil well has surged again, with government officials announcing Tuesday that 35,000 to 60,000 barrels (1.47 million to 2.52 million gallons) of oil a day are now gushing from the reservoir deep beneath the gulf.
The dramatic increase in the estimated flow rate raises the question of whether BP and the government were fully prepared to cope with the hydrocarbons spewing up through the gulf floor.
Currently BP has the capacity to capture only 18,000 barrels of day coming from the well. A second method of tapping the well, one that will add up to 10,000 barrels of capacity, will take oil and gas through the “choke” line on the blowout preventer that was used in the “top kill” operation last month. Instead of drilling mud going down the line, oil and gas will be brought up the line to a ship at the surface, where BP plans to burn the oil and gas in two separate flares.
But as it has become apparent that the well is spewing far more oil than originally estimated, the Obama administration has pressed BP to add additional capacity to capture it. BP responded this weekend with a new plan that will put enough vessels on site by the end of June to handle 53,000 barrels a day, and the company said it will ramp that up to 80,000 barrels by the middle of July.
“As we continue to collect additional data and refine these estimates, it is important to realize that the numbers can change. In particular, the upper number is less certain — which is exactly why we have been planning for the worst case scenario from the beginning and why we are continuing to focus on responding to the upper end of the estimate, plus additional contingencies,” Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said in a written statement.
Eric Smith, of the Tulane Energy Institute, said BP should have had more ships standing by to handle the flow from the well.
“I think everyone was shocked when they peaked out in terms of . . . capacity,” Smith said.
“The total flow out of this thing is pretty impressive. This is a wicked formation,” said physical oceanographer Ian MacDonald of Florida State University. “The gas is what they can’t control, what they couldn’t control, what drove the explosion and killed all the people. That’s the power behind this dragon.”
The rising estimate has become a central feature of the oil spill narrative. Originally the government pegged the spill at 1,000 barrels a day, then soon raised that to 5,000 barrels, then 12,000 to 19,000 barrels, and then, just last week to 20,000 to 40,000 barrels (840,000 to 1.68 million gallons).
remember they told us 5000 barrels..then 10..now 35-60..and i have heard 80 mentioned now..all lies..in fact its a lie-fest from start to finish..