Update | BP Withholds Evidence of Failure

BP ROV May 27

BP ROV May 27


After a day filled with optimistic pronouncements that operation “Top Kill” was working so well that success was all but assured, a BP spokesman casually mentioned at an afternoon press conference that, in fact, top kill had died sixteen hours earlier and had not yet been revived.

The news was so contrary to all other signals given throughout the day that reporters talking to each other afterward debated whether or not the spokesmen had misspoken.

An hour later, when things were sorted out, some reporters were furious about the deception.

“They [BP] have lied from the beginning,” one veteran journalist said.

To recap today’s revelations:

The amount of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico each day has been at least three times greater than the figure BP had embraced as “the best estimate.”

Now that oil has been coming ashore in large quantities, BP is, with the Coast Guard’s help, preventing reporters and photographers from documenting the worst environmental disaster in US history.

If BP says operations are going according to plan, make sure you read the plan before getting your hopes up.

The most significant message from 10 AM EDT news conference: Government raises its estimate of oil flow from 5,000 barrels/day to approximately 19,000 barrels/day. What’s not clear, however, is how to use this number to estimate the total oil spilled since there’s no way of knowing (as far as I can tell) when that rate first began and how much it has changed over time. Also not known as yet: does this account for all leaks from the BP well? We were told there was one big one and two smaller leaks, but data on this have not been independently confirmed.

One other important take away message concerns the makeup of the government’s task force on measuring the flow of oil. Despite repeated inquiries from AP’s Seth Borenstein, the makeup of the committee had not been made public.

Following the press conference, at which Seth Borenstein repeated his question, the information has been released:

Marcia McNutt, Director, USGS; William Rees, Jr., Los Alamos National Lab, Department of Energy; Darren Mollot, Department of Energy; Franklin Shaffer, Department of Energy; Victor Labson, USGS; Bill Lehr, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Austin Gould, US Coast Guard; Richard Brannon, US Coast Guard; Don Maclay, Minerals Management Service (MMS); Gerald Crawford, MMS; David Absher, MMS; and Bill Courtwright, MMS.

Omar Savas, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of California Berkeley

James Riley, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington

Juan Lasheras, Prof. of Engineering and Applied Sciences, University of California San Diego

Poojitha Yapa, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Clarkson University

Paul Boomer, Senior Lecturer, Petroleum and Geosystems, University of Texas at Austin

Steve Wereley, Associate Professor of Mechnical Engineering, Purdue University

Peter Cornillon, Professor of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island

Ira Leifer, Assoc. Researcher, Marine Science Institute, University of California Santa Barbara

Alberto Aliseda, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington Pedro Espina, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“There are no significant events to report at this time.”

That’s the message from BP this morning — despite claims by others that the latest attempt to stop the flow of oil has worked. That operation, called “top kill,” is continuing.

A news conference will be held at 10 AM EDT with  U.S. Geological Survey Director Dr. Marcia McNutt, discuss updates on the rate of oil flowing from the BP oil well into the Gulf of Mexico.

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