May 19th, 2010
08:13 PM ET

BP told feds it could handle massive spills

Oil company BP told federal regulators it could handle an oil spill more than 50 times larger than the one it is now struggling to contain in the Gulf of Mexico, according to documents and congressional testimony Wednesday.

BP America Chairman Lamar McKay told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that the company's worst-case estimate of a possible spill from the well that was ripped open by an explosion in April was 250,000 barrels a day for 30 days. Meanwhile, an exploration plan BP filed with in 2009 estimated an uncontrolled blowout could release between 162,000 and 300,000 barrels a day.

In that document, filed with the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, BP called a spill "unlikely." It stated that if one did happen, however, it "has the capability to respond, to the maximum extent practicable, to a worst-case discharge, or a substantial threat of such a discharge, resulting from the activities proposed in our Exploration Plan."

But with the company still trying to cap a leak estimated at 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day and syrupy, brown fingers of crude starting to seep into the Louisiana marshes, McKay faced another day of pointed questions about the disaster.

"Would you make that statement today?" the committee's chairman, Minnesota Democratic Rep. James Oberstar, asked McKay.

McKay responded that the spill uncorked by the late April sinking of the drill rig Deepwater Horizon was "a very unique situation" and that the company's response on the surface was "very robust."

"I think they were enacted within two hours of the explosion, and that has proved to be impactful and I think effective," he said. But he said the plans didn't take into account the failure of the rig's blowout preventer, a massive piece of equipment designed to slam shut in case of an emergency, or the failure of the well's pipe riser stack to disconnect.

McKay said the plan was being adjusted "based on the characteristics of this oil and where the oil's going," and that a siphon inserted into the larger of the two leak points over the weekend was now capturing about 2,000 barrels per day - about 40 percent of the spill.

But Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Maryland, questioned whether the response plan was adequate.

"If you are implementing a full response plan at 5,000 barrels a day, which is 2 percent of your worst-case scenario, I can't even envision what else could be done or deployed if we were seeing, you know, a greater spill than what you estimate," she said.

McKay discounted estimates that have suggested the leak could be many times larger than the 5,000-barrel figure produced in late April. But he added, "There's a range around that, and there's uncertainty."

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  1. Craig N. Barthelmas

    Subject: PRO-ACTIVE OIL SPILL CONTINGENCY PLAN, Dated: 10 May, 2010

    TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: Here’s a contingency plan that has patented technology and a process that really works.

    1. We found a pre-processed material and developed an action plan that would have extracted up to 95% of the oil spill contaminants from seeded surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico, before it hit land fall.
    2. Our product is a, “Modified Oil Spill Environmental Sponge” dubbed M.O.S.E.S., it is a ¼” to ½” product that can be used to absorb oil contaminants from both “fresh water and salt water” surface oil spills. Our tests have concluded that one ton of product will absorb 125 gallons of oil in less than one hour. Simply put it will absorb approximately one half of its weight in oil. M.O.S.E.S. collects/absorbs oil not water. After saturation M.O.S.E.S. will only contain about 1.4% water. It creates no added impact on marine life or the environment. It also poses no threat to other kinds of wildlife including humans. A fifteen minute test will prove this process works.
    3. Our plan is full circle and includes staging, seeding, re-claiming and re-processing all of the contaminated oil’s and seed materials back into re-usable fuels and commodities.
    4. Due to the urgencies to reduce the impact on the environment and the magnitude of this spill, our plan required partnering with the Coast Guard and other organizations that were already being used to provide staging, seeding and reclaim operations.
    5. Seeding operations were to be handled in essentially the same way they were being done, with minor and/or no modifications to airborne or aquatic equipment that would handle spreading ¼” to ½” particulates.
    6. Re-claim operations required the same booms, scoops, pumps and barge operations, that were being used.
    7. Re-processing operations proposed a permanent emissions free plant for processing oil, sand and other like materials into re-usable fuels and commodities. The plant would take approximately ninety to one hundred and fifty days to construct and would become a permanent part of a states fast action response to future oil spills.
    8. Our plan would have first, assisted with the on-going damage control operations in the gulf; second, it could have been put into operation within seven days; third, it would have become a $30,000,000.00 per year financial benefit to the communities that embraced staging and plant processing operations.
    9. This plan will greatly reduced the time and costs associated with this kind of oil spill in the future. We are confident that this type of pro-active plan would become a template for other high risk (oceanic) areas.
    So, why was this plan given no consideration at all? It is not a question of if another spill will happen, but when! The only excuses we have been able to come up with that, we are sure you are going to here are, as follows:
    a. BP, News Networks and Government Agencies didn’t have the time to consider a pro-active long term plan?
    b. We were crack pots when, this technology is patented and the product could be tested in fifteen minutes?
    c. BP has it under control as, they have done this before? Yes and, crazy is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results! We need to get past these smoke screens and prepare for future spills.
    Thank you for your time and consideration. We’d love to receive some constructive input from anyone who is listening.
    Craig N. Barthelmas, Verizon Cell: [313] 682-1428, E-Mail:
    CC: BP., CNN, FOX NEWS, NOAA, Governors of: AL., FL., LA., MS., And TX.

    May 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Craig N. Barthelmas

    ATTENTION!! The PRO-ACTIVE OIL SPILL CONTINGENCY PLAN listed above will not plug oil leaks but, it will address five major problems; two of witch, are concerns that have not been addressed in the media or in the government.
    1. It truly is a LONG TERM-CONTINGENCY PLAN. It will help the community rebuild revenues while providing a fast action operational plan for future oil spills. Yes! Future oil spills will surely occur, despite future prevention efforts!
    2. This plan is full circle and would included staging, seeding, re-claiming and re-processing all of the contaminated oil’s, oil filled sands and seed materials back into re-usable fuels and commodities.
    3. It creates no added impact on marine life or the environment. It also poses no threat to humans and/or other forms of wildlife. Oil, feed stock and sand processing are near emissions free processes.
    4. It will generate $30,000,000.00 worth of new revenues for the communities that embrace staging and plant processing operations. The plant would remain in full operation after the clean-up is done.
    5. It will also add about forty new jobs to the community. This is not only a plan to help with short term clean up’s, it will also have a positive long term and lasting effect on the community as well.
    We all know that BP has been feeding us misinformation and then trying to mobilize volunteers to help minimize their cost. Yes! We sent BP and other agencies this plan. Operations of this nature have a price tag associated with them and so, it would appear that they have no wish to spend anything on spills they can’t control or that won’t go back into their pockets. The OMRS-100 technology is patented and, M.O.S.E.S. (The oil absorbent) can be tested in less than fifteen minutes!
    As always our government is seeking a short term quickie (political talk) so we can get a long term scr**ing! Has anyone mentioned where they (BP) plan to put and/or dispose of all of that contaminated; oil, sand and material? We are pretty sure that without intervention it will be in somebody’s back yard, neatly hidden from sight, killing something else. Don’t you think that any oil spill plan should at least consider: Prevention, Mobilization, Extraction and Disposal Operations?
    Thank you for your time. We would love to receive some constructive input from anyone who is as concerned as we are.
    Craig N. Barthelmas, Verizon Cell: [313] 682-1428, E-Mail:

    May 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. oregon153

    I am sure Obama loved the fact that he could criticize BP but not do anything himself.. Have you noticed that he never takes resposibility for anything ???? This oil spill is Bush's fault Right Barak?

    May 31, 2010 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. Boom in NC

    I'm not a scientist or a weather man or anything like that but with hurricane season just starting and all this oil being in the gulf can't be good for southern states. As a NC resident I have had my shares of Hurricanes and Tropical Depressions. What I have learned over the years is that the strongest of these storms kinda just hang out in the Gulf and suck up all that warm water to become a stronger storm. Then when they are good and strong they shift on a northeast pattern and drop all that ocean water down on the southern states. Now with all that oil in the Gulf could a Hurricane potentially suck a lot of oil up and then rain it down on the South? If so... We are screwed.

    June 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
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