For almost a month, BP monitored oil and natural gas gushing from the broken riser and blow-out preventer with remote operated vehicles (ROVs). And for almost a month, they kept all of that video to entirely to themselves. But that’s about to change.
In the hours and days immediately following the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drill rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the federal response was centered on firefighting, search and rescue. For nearly three days, although the rig was burning, the wellhead and riser assembly were still in tact and there was no leaking oil to speak of. And then, the worst-case scenario happened: the Deepwater Horizon sank.
First reports were that the “only” thing leaking was the 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel from the Deepwater Horizon rig. But then a leak was found in the crumpled, broken riser; and another one at the end of the drill pipe; and yet another at the blowout preventer. All in all, BP was saying that an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil per day was leaking from those three points. That estimate was then bumped up to 5,000 barrels per day.
“We were comfortable with the estimate that was given, the 5,000 barrel per day estimate,” U.S Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry. Landry, the Federal On-Scene Coordinator for Unified Area Command, Deepwater Horizon Response said on a conference call on Monday.
“It’s only an estimate. I was comfortable with working from that. Did I think it was exact? No. I’ve never trusted that. I’ve never personally trusted that as an exact number,” said Landry.
“And the truth of the matter is we’ve always had to have in the back of our mind that it could be much worse… it could be 55,000 barrels per day, which is an extraordinary amount which would have tremendous impact.”
Seeing the leak
Bowing to public and media pressure, BP released two short video clips of oil and gas gushing from the broken riser pipe. Using those videos, scientists specializing in modeling liquid dynamics with video imagery have estimated the leak to be producing 5 to 10 times the volume of oil and gas as BP’s original estimates.
“I don’t see any scenario under which their estimates are accurate,” Steve Wereley, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University told the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee.
But the videos were not entirely satisfactory for many. They were short, of fair quality and one could conceivably argue hand-selected because they displayed some particularly favorable (in BP’s eyes) characteristics, like a more favorable gas-to-oil ratio.
Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida continued to press BP for more access to the video stream of the two remaining oil leaks and BP finally released three and half minutes of video. Still not satisfied, Rep. Markey demanded BP produce the real-time feed of the video, even saying he would host it on the sub-committee’s website .
“BP is going to have to pay for the cleanup of this spill and the long-term damage. Hosting this video on our website is the only freebie they’re going to get,” Markey said.
“This may be BP’s footage, but it’s America’s ocean. Now anyone will be able to see the real-time effects the BP spill is having on our ocean,” said Markey.
By the end of the hearing yesterday, BP officials agreed to provide the live streaming video of the subsea oil and gas leaks. And today, when the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming began streaming live video of the leak, overwhelming interest crashed the website, and as I write this, it is still not back online.
See Video below:
Article by Timothy B. Hurst appearing courtesy Celsias