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Coast Guard: BP delayed access to site for flow-rate estimates

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Document details lack of cooperation on estimates at spill site
  • Coast Guard says BP relied on stopping flow before accurate estimate could be reached
  • Independent group puts number as high as 60,000 barrels a day

(CNN) -- A document released by the U.S. Coast Guard this week shows a lack of cooperation from BP in providing accurate flow-rate estimates of the oil company's massive underwater gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.

The document is a sole-source contract seeking to secure the services of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, described by the Coast Guard as "well known" in the oil spill field and a company that "routinely operates at depths required" at the BP site.

Woods Hole submitted proposed technology to BP in May designed to provide an accurate flow-rate estimate from the ruptured undersea well after the oil company provided its own numbers inconsistent with those of scientific experts, the document shows.

The institution's technological capabilities at the site include sonar, optical, Doppler and mass spectrometer varieties of sensors, according to the Coast Guard.

However, the document quotes BP America CEO Lamar McKay from his congressional hearing testimony as saying, "this leak is not measurable through technology we know."

According to the Coast Guard, BP delayed acting on the institute's technology proposal "under the premise that BP would soon implement successful recovery techniques."

"Previous efforts to apply sensors to the site for determination of flow rate have been delayed under the assumptions that the oil leak would be stopped by pending mitigation efforts, which have not been successful to date," the document says.

BP had initially put the rate of oil flowing from the well at 1,000 barrels a day (42,000 gallons), then 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons), before conceding the actual rate could be much higher.

Oil has been gushing at the site since an April 20 explosion aboard the drilling rig the Deepwater Horizon.

The most recent government estimate determined by the independent Flow Rate Technical Group puts the number of barrels of oil flowing as high as 60,000 a day or 2.5 million gallons. A containment cap system has been siphoning some of that crude to a surface vessel.