A day after BP said it was siphoning as much as 5,000 barrels per day from the gushing Deepwater Horizon oil well, the company is revising that figure downward. Now, BP says it is catching less than half that – about 2,200 barrels.
The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which BP PLC leased from TransOcean LTD, exploded off the coast of Louisiana on April 20 and sank two days later. Eleven rig workers missing since the blast are presumed dead. The oil spill spawned by the blast has now grown to more than 7,500 square miles.
Over the weekend, BP began using a 4-inch pipe to siphon some of the oil from a broken pipe located a mile below the surface of the ocean. Earlier in the week, the company claimed it was catching about 3,000 barrels per day this way, and yesterday said it was capturing as much as 5,000.
A BP spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that it is normal for the siphoning rate to fluctuate. The company will provide details later today about why the amount being siphoned has dropped, the spokesperson said.
The amount of oil being siphoned from the well is just one of the numbers BP can’t seem to get a handle on in regards to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. For weeks now, the company has estimated the total amount of oil coming from the gushing well to be about 5,000 barrels per day. That estimate was based on satellite pictures of the oil slick on the waterâ€™s surface. But scientists have been questioning that method, and up to this point, BP has resisted calls to use more advanced techniques to measure the flow. Yesterday, some lawmakers even accused BP of covering up the true extent of the leak.
Finally yesterday, BP and the federal government conceded that the figure was probably too low. BP now says the number was only meant to be a rough estimate.
To provide further specificity on the flow rate, the U.S. government has created a Flow Rate Technical Team to develop a more precise estimate. The team is mandated to produce a report by close of business on Saturday, May 22.
The siphoning tube is just one method BP is trying to contain the spill. It is also using chemical dispersants to break up the oil, and is skimming oil from the surface of the water.
This weekend, the company will try to permanently stop the leak with a procedure called a “top kill”. This involves injecting heavy drilling fluids and cement into the well to staunch the leak.
If the top kill fails, BP will have to rely on two relief wells it is drilling nearby to intercept the damaged well. But they will take as long as three months to complete.