BP Accused of Lowballing Oil Leak Estimates

lowballing oil leak photo

Well, it just keeps getting worse. Around two months ago, after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank, BP estimated that some 1,000 barrels of oil were leaking into the Gulf each day. That number was soon revised to 5,000 barrels and later to around 12,000. Then, just last week, those grim figures were raised again, putting the estimates at between 30,000 and 65,000 barrels of oil leaking each day. Now, according to a recently disclosed internal document from BP, that number could have been as high as 100,000 barrels of oil, daily--a fact BP decided to keep secret.According to the a report from the AFP, as BP estimated the leak to be around 5,000 barrels of oil each day publicly, lawmakers were told that the worst-case scenario could be much higher--around 55,000 barrels.

Now, in an internal BP document disclosed by US Representative Ed Markey, the company's earliest estimates were made without referencing what was it's actual worst-case scenario--that the leaking oil could total 100,000 barrels daily.

Rep. Markey, on Meet the Press:

First they said it was only 1,000 barrels, then they said it was 5,000 barrels, now we're up to 100,000 barrels. It was their technology, it was their spill camp, they're the ones that should have known right from the beginning; and either to limit their liability or because they were grossly incompetent, they delayed a full response to the magnitude of this disaster.

In response to claims that the company was in some way deceptive in releasing its earliest estimates, BP countered that conditions which would lead to that worst-case scenario have not occurred. Company spokesman, Robert Wine, defends his position, telling the AFP: "It's completely misrepresenting what were saying. We were saying that if two conditions were met simultaneously--one that we got the modeling restrictions wrong and if the blowout preventer were removed--then we could have 100,000 barrels of oil."

While the document shows that BP knew things could be much worse than they originally estimated, analysts don't think that that worst-case scenario has come to pass--maintaining the figure at around 60,000 barrels daily.

Still, this sign of elusiveness on the part of BP leads one to wonder what other facts may have been hidden or distorted--particularly as the leak continues to pollute the Gulf and the full extent of the damage has only begun to be realized.

More on the BP Oil Leak
Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: The What, When and Where [UPDATED]
Gone Sailing: Hayward Takes In Yacht Race While Spill Rages On
BP CEO Tony Hayward Removed from Gulf Operations

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