This will not be a shock for anybody paying attention to the ever changing figures from BP on what they are capturing from the containment cap versus what is blindingly obvious from watching the spillcam live video feed, but BP and the US government have yet again been dishonest about the nature and size of the oil gusher leaking into the Gulf of Mexico water.
The new estimates are considerably higher than the prior “best estimate” of 12,000-19,000 bpd issued on May 27 by the so-called Flow Rate Technical Group.
The flow of crude from the ruptured well could have been as low as 20,000 barrels (840,000 gallons/3.18 million liters) per day and as high as 40,000 bpd, with an average flow rate of 25,000-30,000 bpd, according to the findings announced by U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt.
The thing to keep in mind here is that even these new higher figures are before the riser was cut off the Blow Out Preventer (BOP) on June 3. The estimate from BP and the government has been that the cut increased the flow 10%-20% from the baseline before the cut. All of which would indicate the current flow could easily be 48,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Not to mention, of course, there has not once been an estimate by either BP or the US government which was anything but a serious underestimate; so the safe bet is the real flow rate from the Macondo well is even higher yet, especially considering the visual evidence lends the conclusion the cutting of the riser increased the flow noticeably more than 20%. You have to wonder if the public will ever get a straight answer out of BP and the Obama Administration.
[Graphic - BP: Broken Promises. Logo design by Foye 2010 submitted as part of the Art For Change BP Logo Redesign Contest and used with permission]
A bunch of hippie members of Congress noticed the same thing about Obama’s BP Commission that I noticed: it lacks subpoena power.
So Lois Capps and Ed Markey in the House and Jeanne Shaheen and several of her colleagues are pushing legislation to give the Commission subpoena power.
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), along with nine Senate colleagues, today introduced legislation to grant subpoena power to the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, which President Obama created by executive order on May 22. Congress has previously granted subpoena power to presidential commissions investigating national crises, including the Warren Commission and the Three Mile Island Commission. Joining Shaheen on this legislation are Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The Senators strongly believe that the BP Commission must have subpoena power to ensure access to all the evidence it needs to undertake a complete investigation on the causes of the spill and make meaningful recommendations on how to prevent similar disasters. Today, Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) plan to introduce similar legislation in the House.
Here’s the House version of the bill.
Now, I’ve actually been told that Obama, by himself, couldn’t give the commission subpoena power–I’m trying to clarify that.
I’m still not entirely convinced this won’t be a whitewash designed to enable future drilling in any case. But subpoena power sure would help.
Twenty-some years after one of the biggest industrial disasters in history, seven former Union Carbide executives have been sentenced to a few years in jail.
A court in central India ruled Monday that seven top executives and the company they worked for are guilty for their role in the 1984 industrial disaster that killed thousands in Bhopal, India.The leaking of poisonous gas from Union Carbide India Limited — the now-defunct local subsidiary of the American chemical company — was one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. Plaintiffs had waited more than two decades for the verdict.
The convicted former employees have been sentenced to the maximum punishment allowed in the case. The judge imposed a two-year prison term and a fine of about $2,000 each after convicting the men of negligence causing death, endangering public life and causing hurt.
While I’m happy that a handful of people will finally pay, however inadequate a price, I’m more interested in this because of the timing.
After Bhopal and a smaller–but still devastating–Union Carbide accident in West Virginia, the US passed regulations on similar volatile processes. During the 1990s, paper mills and chemical plants and oil refineries implemented new processes to make their plants safer for workers. But it didn’t take long for OHSA to back off of big fines. So by the time BP’s Texas City refinery disaster, some oil companies were already calculating that accidents would be less onerous than complying with the regulations passed in response to the Bhopal disaster.
The regulations passed in response to Bhopal specifically exempted drilling activities; those weren’t the regulations BP took lightly in the lead-up to the disaster.
But the treatment of BP’s violation of them at Texas City did contribute to the disaster. As bmaz has written, BP was already a corporate convict because of its past indifference to safety and regulations. Yet that didn’t prevent BP from having the opportunity to gamble with the entire ecosystem of the Gulf so it could profit.
I’m glad Union Carbide execs will finally see some prison time. But it’s not enough to hold executives accountable 26 years after huge disasters. We need to get more serious about holding corporations–and corporate executives–accountable for their crimes.
Oil and gas may be leaking from the seabed surrounding the BP Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida told Andrea Mitchell today on MSNBC. Nelson, one of the most informed and diligent Congressmen on the BP gulf oil spill issue, has received reports of leaks in the well, located in the Mississippi Canyon sector. This is potentially huge and devastating news.
If Nelson is correct in that assertion, and he is smart enough to not make such assertions lightly, so I think they must be taken at face value, it means the well casing and well bore are compromised and the gig is up on containment pending a completely effective attempt to seal the well from the bottom via successful “relief wells”. In fact, I have confirmed with Senator Nelson’s office that they are fully aware of the breaking news and significance of what the Senator said to Andrea Mitchell.
Furthermore, contrary to the happy talk propounded by BP, the Obama Administration and the press, the likely success of the “relief well” effort on the first try in August is nowhere near a certainty; and certainly nowhere near the certainty it is being painted as.
About five days ago, I responded to someone in comments with the following:
Yeah, but I am absolutely convinced there is such a lack of integrity, from pretty much top to bottom, of the well that totally plugging it at the top just creates the blowout of whatever remaining seal they have with the cement at the wellhead. I believe they have a total clusterfuck in about every regard and are just not admitting it:
1) BP used, if not substandard, then very close to it, casing that under the circumstances was inappropriate. It is fragile.
2) They did not install somehow or another at least one major casing segment seal, and the remaining seals are now either completely blown out or on their way to it and as a result oil and gas flow is not only coming up the inside of the casing, but the outside of the casing between the casing and well bore walls in the rock.
3) BP specified a light and fluffy cement and, additionally, there may be significant breaches and voids making the cement job weak and disintegrating.
4) Even at best, the cement is in the upper depths of the well bore where the natural geologic rock structure is the loosest, weakest, most porous and fragile (hell some of it may effectively be silt). The oil and gas, which has a natural well pressure of 12,000 or so psi is going to erode and corrode through and around the cement and the porous well bore rock.
5) Being attached to the Deepwater Horizon rig by the riser, and perhaps drill string too, when all hell broke loose and it exploded, shifted and sank, it put various pressures and forces through attachment to the BOP in turn attached on the well casing head. This action may have kind of reamed out and loosened that whole situation making it even looser and more susceptible to 2 and 4 above.
6) The BOP, to the extent it had restrictions present initially, has now been eroded and reamed out by the long term flow of gas and oil upwards and then the caustic flow of drilling mud the other direction from the attempted Top Kill. It is totally fucked way worse than it even was initially.
7) The reservoir of oil in Macondo is way larger than most anybody realizes and certainly bigger than BP will admit. It is a huge mother lode. Could flow forever.
8) Did I mention that the natural well pressure may be as high as 12,000 psi??
The Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf States and all of us are totally fucked.
As Sir Richard Mottram famously said:
We’re all fucked. I’m fucked. You’re fucked. The whole [thing] is fucked. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely fucked.
I may have been uncomfortably close to the mark. And the quote from Sir Richard Mottram was dead on the money; if Senator Nelson is correct about the breach of fundamental well integrity, the game is close to over for the Gulf of Mexico. We shall see where this goes from Nelson’s initial comment. But make no mistake, Nelson is a careful guy not prone to overt hyperbole, and he clearly understood the ramifications of what he was saying.
It also means, of course, that BP and the Obama Administrations continue to give the American public short shrift in the truth and honesty departments. How surprising.
As I’ve said before, one of the best ways to see the absurd nature of the relationship between our government and BP as they partner to try to fix BP’s disaster is to remember that fifty-some years ago, the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran because it had nationalized BP’s facilities.
I invite you to think about that fact while you read this exchange with BP’s CEO Tony Hayward from the Beeb’s Andrew Marr Show.
What happens if, as a lot of American politicians are talking about, the US government takes control of BP or at least BP’s American operations? Is that plausible? Is that possible?
I think you know what we’re doing is focusing on the response. We’re absolutely focused on the response. I think it’s for the US authorities to determine what they wish to do. All I can say is that we’re working hand in hand with the US authorities. I am talking all the time with Secretaries Chu, Salazar, Thad Allen, the incident commander to deal with the response.
Do you feel you’re being unfairly treated by the American political system and the media given where we are in the electoral cycle?
I think it’s understandable when something of this scale occurs with this sort of environmental impact – the impact it’s had on the Gulf Coast – that people are angry and frustrated and emotional. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing. And you know I’m angry and frustrated and you know …
I mean no British company has been on the receiving end of American presidential anger like this I think ever before. That and the possibility of some political action and criminal action against the company has led people to start to ask whether BP itself is going to survive this.
BP’s a very strong company. Its operations today are running extremely well. It’s generating a lot of cash flow. It has a very strong balance sheet. Our reputation has been based on thousands of people over a long period of time in BP doing the right thing, and we are doing everything we can to do the right thing. We are going to stop the leak. We’re going to clean up the oil. We’re going to remediate any environmental damage and we are going to return the Gulf Coast to the position it was in prior to this event. That’s an absolute commitment, and we will be there long after the media has gone making good on our promises.
And once you’ve done all of that, will you be paying the dividend to your investors?
We’re going to take care of all of our stakeholders.
Don’t worry, Hayward told his British audience. The US won’t take over BP (or even its US operations). Nothing the US will do will prevent us from paying our dividend on time.
You see, the US can take over a country to serve BP’s interests. But it would be absurd, Hayward clearly believes, to think the US would take over BP to serve its own people.
The title pretty much tells the tale. It was just stated on The Ed Schultz Show on MSNBC that:
Family of 11 victims of the Deep Horizon explosion to visit White House next week.
Well, that is just swell.
On the day a forlorn paucity of the media belatedly report on the deceptive collusion that the US Government and BP have been sitting on physical evidence, and factual conclusions drawn therefrom, contained in the full set of video feeds they both have been viewing from the outset of the BP Macondo/Deepwater Horizon blow out, we learn the White House is suddenly going to submit to external pressure and grant the victims of the BP/Deepwater Horizon homicides a walkby meet and greet ceremonial dog and pony show. After nearly two weeks of the victims screaming they have been forgotten, the audience has been approved from on high.
How refreshing. I hope the bereaved at least get an official White House coffee cup and Presidential keychain for their participation.
This is just wrong. It is not wrong for Obama to meet with the relatives and next of kin to the wrongfully deceased of an American natural disaster. It is wrong they had to beg for it, wrong it is being sold like a new product release, and wrong it is used as a convenient image makeover for an Obama Administration recalcitrant to treat mass scale criminal, and wholesale recklessly wanton environmental behavior as what it really is.
Think this is an exaggeration? Just wait and watch. Let me know when there is individual criminal liability where it belongs, as opposed to an inbred with the corporate culture, wink and nod plea and fine scheme in collusion with BP, Transocean, Halliburton and/or their powerful lobbyists. You know, criminal prosecution of the truly criminally negligent actors and authorities. The ones making the imminently foreseeable, cold, craven and disastrous decisions precipitating the needless death of eleven souls and the biggest environmental disaster in the history of the United States. Not the kind of cozy package deal the US government is known for giving BP when they have wreaked wholesale death and environmental destruction.
I do not presume to speak for the Deepwater deceased and their survivors; but I find it hard to believe they would not rather the President and American government show they will no longer accept the absent regulatory effort, coddling of profit before morals corporate greed, and “looking forward” blind ignorance of accountability for dereliction and destruction of the ethos we should, and claim to, stand for. The dead and their relatives are entitled to better than is given the latest basketball team to win a championship.
As you undoubtedly know by now, BP has failed miserably at every “fix” they have attempted so far. There is growing evidence of what a total sham exists in the craven use by BP of any number of subsidiaries to insulate itself from criminal and civil liability.
But right now the focus is on the ongoing LMRP attempt that BP now is warning could drag on from four days to a week. Many of you have been keeping up the monitoring of this back on the previous Top Hat and Tails: BP Has Yet Another “Solution” thread from Sunday. Please continue that discussion and reporting here.
One other thing I would like to point out; despite making a big dog and pony show of its commitment to speak with a single voice, Thad Allen, and quit making a media show of parading a series of Cabinet Officers down to the Gulf in a vain attempt to look like they are on top of things, the Obama Administration is …. wait for it …. making a media show of sending Attorney General Eric Holder down to the Gulf to make it look like they are on top of things. From Reuters:
Attorney General Eric Holder will survey the damage from the Gulf Coast oil spill on Tuesday and meet with federal prosecutors and state attorneys general, the Justice Department said on Monday.
After a tour and briefing by the U.S. Coast Guard, Holder will meet with the state attorneys general from Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi as well as U.S. attorneys from those states. Holder is also scheduled to speak to reporters in New Orleans.
The Justice Department has already demanded that the companies involved in the spill, including BP Plc, Transocean Ltd and Halliburton Co to preserve paperwork related to the accident that could become part of an investigation.
Experts have said the Justice Department was likely eyeing potential violations of the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Refuse Act.
Notice what is missing from that last paragraph? There is no mention of prosecution under the negligent and/or reckless provisions of the Federal manslaughter law for the eleven deaths occurring on Deepwater Horizon as a result of BP’s willful and wanton conduct. The article mentions the deaths, but the Obama Administration and Holder DOJ never does. When it comes to talk of potential accountability, it is like the eleven deaths never happened to the Obama Administration. But hey, there are business interests and military fuel contracts they must protect and, clearly, that takes precedence for this Administration.
[Graphic - BP: Broken Promises. Logo design by Foye 2010 submitted as part of the Art For Change BP Logo Redesign Contest and used with permission]
I mean that headline more metaphorically than literally. But I do find it really really telling–and really really bad taste–that BP just hired Cheney’s former campaign press flack, Anne Womack-Kolton, to head its American media relations.
BP has hired a former top aide for Vice President Dick Cheney to be their new spokeswoman. Anne Womack-Kolton has been hired to be “head of U.S. media relations.” A rising star in the Bush-Cheney White House since the 2000 campaign, Womack-Kolton served as Cheney’s press secretary during the 2004 election before running public affairs in the Bush Department of Energy.
Now Reuters, which first reported this, paints the move as an effort to better respond to the overwhelming influx of inquiries. But I wonder if there isn’t something more to this.
Administration spokeswoman Anne Womack responded to the GAO lawsuit by sounding the same righteous tone: “We are ready to defend our principles in court. This goes to the heart of the presidency and to the ability of the president and vice president to receive candid, discreet advice.”
Then there’s the legal nuance of this. Womack-Kolton was working for Brunswick Group, which BP retained as early as May 4. So she’s basically just moving in-house from the crisis communication firm that BP had already hired. Perhaps this is a testament to BP’s need to get better coordination in-house. But I can’t help but wonder whether there’s some other reason. Does being a BP employee as opposed to a consultant’s employee change Womack-Kolton’s legal protection, for example, during upcoming lawsuits?
Whatever the reason for bringing Dick Cheney’s own flack in-house, perhaps this will bring a new level of honesty to BP’s response. What could be more honest, after all, then putting Dick Cheney’s face on this disaster?
Jason Leopold and I have both been going head on at the DOJ and Obama Administration over the issue of criminal treatment for BP and its actions in causing the Gulf disaster; see: here, here, here and here. One of the thoughts has regarded the DOJ’s ability to leverage one or both of the Federal criminal probation matters BP is currently operating under for past crimes.
One case was for the Alaska spill and BP was placed on criminal probation for three years starting in December 2007. The other case was a felony plea resulting from the Texas City Refinery explosion. Here is the plea agreement from the Texas City Refinery case and here is the concurrent statement of facts in support thereof.
The key to unlocking where we stand on this is understanding the exact relationship, and how clearly defined it is, between the parent company “BP Plc.”, the Texas City criminal defendant entity “BP Products North America Inc.” and the Alaska criminal defendant entity “BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. Also, what exact names are on the permits and leases for the Macondo well project? How do all these fit together and can we pierce these alter egos and reasonably argue that the parent entity BP Plc. is legally, including criminally, liable for all?
So this is a crowdsourcing game for one and all that are interested in helping. If we can dissect this bull manure for the cute liability dodge sham it is, maybe we can gain some traction. Put any thoughts, links, cites and results of your work in the comments. Many of you are a lot better at drilling into corporate entities than I am, so thanks for the help!
Now that this is an all oil all the time blog, the restless residents are clamoring for a new thread for the LMRP, the latest greatest bullshit moonshot BP is ginning up for the gullible media and public. You ask, we comply; this is a full service blog!
Here is a quick recap. Top Kill failed. Junk Shot failed. Top Kill and Junk Shot combined failed. The only thing BP has been successful at is failure, but they are very good at failure. There is a very good chance the key to all this failure is contained in this quote buried in the lower half of an article by oil and gas industry publication Upstream Online:
Flow from the Macondo well is not travelling up the main well bore, BP operations boss Doug Suttles said Tuesday, a revelation that supports theories that a cement failure played a part in the blowout.
“We actually believe the flow path is between two strings of the casing and not up the main wellbore,” Suttles said.
Suttles said BP could not be certain of the flow path but diagnostic tests on the well seem to indicate the flow is not coming up main bore.
A veteran industry source told UpstreamOnline that the news about the flow path “almost certainly confirms” what many suspected, that problems with the annular cement around the production casing played a part in the blowout.
The well itself has no structural integrity; it has not from the outset. The well was doomed to blow out and all these hair brained fixes BP has hucked to the clueless media and public were doomed to fail as well. This has been an insane ostrich head in the sand process, apparently all to salve a pissed public and angry mother nature because BP and the government have got nothing else and they know it.
The latest greatest pie in the sky dream fix is LMRP, which technically stands for Lower Marine Riser Package. It is the new and improved Top Hat! Here is a diagram of the LMRP plan.
Here is my question: How the heck is this going to work if the well itself – the casing, seals, cement and well walls – is not intact, which we know it is not as to all of said factors? LMRP may further choke or restrict the flow, but it strikes me it cannot, and will not, stop it; and the resulting back pressure could exacerbate other inherent problems. We have been led to believe all the oil being lost is through the BOP, and such is the only video evidence we have been provided by the unified disaster response command. However, there is no evidentiary proof such is the case, and we have been intentionally prohibited from seeing the full scope of what is going on down there at the Macondo well bore.
Secondly, the existence of decent flow through the wounded BOP has kept well pressure from building up and really blowing out the well bore. When you cap such a compromised well bore with either the LMRP or the “new BOP”, even assuming they can really pull either of those off as BP claims (and the fuckers have not been right about any of their half assed ideas yet), then you will block the pressure vent that has kept the well bore itself from further eroding and being further seriously compromised.
As even Obama Administration flak Carol Browner now admits, the only real hope for stopping the oil flow of the biggest environmental disaster in history comes from the relief wells being drilled. But they can not be completed until sometime in August at best (hey, did you know hurricane season is on its way?), and BP has ceased work on one of the two relief wells because they may want to pirate the BOP from that effort to further jerry rig the Macondo well head by putting it on top of the current broken BOP. The sheer willful and wanton incompetence from both BP and the government continues unabated. Also, from the same link:
Congressman Ed Markey, who forced BP to make available a live video feed of the oil leak, said Sunday he had “no confidence whatsoever in BP.”
“BP has been making it up as they go along the whole way,” he said on “Face the Nation.” I don’t think that people should really believe what BP are saying.”
No shit Sherlock. LMRP, the latest version of “Top Hat”, is just another song and dance. And people laughed at Dr. Sludgelove’s bomb.
UPDATE: Henry Waxman, Bart Stupak and the Energy and Commerce Committee have made a notable document dump:
Committee Releases Memo & Documents Concerning Issues Raised in Recent News Media Accounts Related to the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
Sunday, 30 May 2010 15:06
Today, the Committee on Energy & Commerce released a memo and documents concerning issues raised in recent news media accounts related to the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill.
Yesterday, The New York Times published an article entitled “Documents Show Earlier Fears About Safety of Offshore Well.” The article described documents from BP that, according to The New York Times, “show serious problems and safety concerns with the Deepwater Horizon rig.”
Some members have asked whether we were the source of the documents cited by The New York Times and whether they can review the documents. We were not the source of the documents, but we have been able to identify most of the documents mentioned in the article. We are providing them to the members as attachments to this memorandum.
Some of these are technical documents about well design. Others are documents that raise questions, but their connection to the blowout, if any, require additional investigation. The Committee staff is continuing its investigation of these issues.