The New York Times reported that BP had to slow down the flow on Sunday after capturing more than the 15,000 bpd the drillship can process. If you click on the video feeds you will see much more still boiling into the gulf.
BP said it was going to gear up to process 20,000 bpd but it would take two vessels to split the incoming oil. The
Enterprise can only process 15,000 bpd so they are going to reverse the flow from the currently unused top kill lines and hopefully extract another 5,000 bpd to the Helix Q4000 rig assisting with the project.
BP qualified their statement with the normal "it has never been done at this depth" but they seem hopeful they can pull it off.
BP is caught between a rock and a misstatement. Previously they said the leak was "only" about 5,000 bpd. And, we all agree that it was slower than it is today due to the crimped riser. Now that the riser has been sawed off and is open to the sea it is producing at full force.
If BP does finally build up to 20,000 bpd then the government is going to fine them on a much larger number than the original 5,000 bpd estimate. By capturing so much oil now, even though conditions changed, the government is going to boost their estimates of the initial flows for the first six weeks. At a maximum of $4,300 per barrel that is going to be a monster fine. Given the current hostility in the gulf and the hostility by the administration it is a guarantee they are going for top dollar and full volume.
President Obama said today that BP will be forced to pay "many billions" in fines and billions in the cleanup effort. That effort is expected to take years.
This is a game changer for BP and the fines and penalties could force BP to sell some premium properties in order to raise cash without breaking the piggy bank. There have been rumors of someone like Exxon making an offer for BP at the drastically lowered valuations but nobody in their right mind would do that until all the costs are known. This could literally cost BP $25-$35 billion over the next 5-7 years. It will take that long for all the court cases to complete because creating continual delays to make the other side lose interest in the battle is a favored strategy by major corporations.
BP is working on another plan. That should come as no surprise to anyone since they have a dozen plans in the works at all times. The robot subs have been attempting to disconnect a flange from part of the old riser. There is no reason to do this other than to practice removing the now severed riser from the top of the blow out preventer (BOP). If they can figure out how to use the subs to remove the massive bolts at the top of the BOP where the riser was sheared off then they could possibly put another BOP on top of the existing BOP and shut down the spill completely. OR, they could attach a new riser to the new BOP and capture all the oil as they normally would in a non-crisis situation.
The bolts on the BOP are nearly as big as your fist and would have been put on while the BOP was above water using powerful tools. I view it as nearly impossible to remove them using robot subs a mile underwater. Anyone able to pull that off would be a definite hero.
The next problem BP is going to face is the 1,021,000 gallons of the "neurotoxin pesticide" Corexit that is lethal to 50% of life in concentrations as little as 2.6 parts per million. This pesticide is what is being used as the chemical dispersant for the escaping oil. Over a million gallons has been sprayed. This has been banned in the UK since 1998 because tests suggested it could kill off the entire food chain.
Corexit is acutely toxic to both human and aquatic life, causes cancer, causes damages to internal organs such as the liver and kidneys simply by absorbing it though the skin and may cause reproductive side effects. It was used after the Exxon Valdez spill and later linked to widespread long lasting health impacts in people including respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders. The EPA says the human health hazards from Corexit are "chronic."
The EPA ordered BP to quit using Corexit but BP refused saying it was less toxic than the oil and no other dispersant was available in the quantities needed. Scientific studies have shown that oil dispersed with Corexit is 11 times more toxic than oil alone. Oil at 4250 parts per million is lethal to fish but oil mixed with Corexit is lethal at 317.7 ppm.
It is conceivable that the resulting concentrations of Corexit and dispersed oil could literally poison the eastern gulf for decades to come. Would you want to eat fish that had been swimming in a lethal poison? The entire gulf food chain could be damaged for decades to come. As people become sick and fish populations shrink this could be the biggest class action suit ever against BP.
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