BP Way Off on Oil Spill Cleanup Estimates

It seems BP’s estimate of how much crude it could skim in the event of a catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill was wildly optimistic. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP has only been able to recover a fraction of the oil it claimed it could just a month before the disaster.

According to The Washington Post, BP said in a March 24 filing with the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) that it had the ability to recover 491,721 barrels of oil each day in the event of a major spill. BP said it would reach its goal largely by deploying two companies that have the necessary expertise, trained staff and equipment. The report’s optimistic cleanup claims were not questioned by officials at MMS.

If that estimate had been correct, 38 million barrels of oil should have been removed from the Gulf of Mexico by now. But so far, BP’s flotilla of 500 skimmers has only recovered around 671,428 barrels of an oil-water mixture.

According to the Washington Post, that mixture is about 90 percent water, so only around 67,143 barrels of oil have actually been skimmed since the April 20th explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig. That averages out to about 900 barrels per day, the Post said. Burning operations have removed another 238,095 barrels.

According to the Post, the skimming operation in the Gulf of Mexico was hampered from the start. Some of the roadblocks included slow response of emergency workers, inadequate supplies and equipment, untrained cleanup crews and inclement weather.

What’s more one of the companies named by BP in the March 24 filing, the nonprofit Marine Spill Response Corp., told The Washington Post that it was never asked whether it could make the goals set by BP. The other firm, for-profit National Response, would not comment, the Post said.

The federal government is facing a great deal of criticism over its failure to scrutinize BP’s recovery plans. In response, the Post said the Coast Guard will announces this week the creation of an expert panel to conduct a “preparedness review” for Deepwater Horizon. Both the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (previously MMS) have said they are reviewing how cleanup estimates are crafted and the government’s role in reviewing them.

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