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CRE', Wand I

V T citizens .for, respon~ibility

ethics m washmgton
702 H Street, NW, Suite 300 1400 I Street, NW, Suite 450
Washington, DC 20001 Washington, DC 20005
Tel: 202-462 -1177 • Fax: 202-462-4507 Tel: 202-408-5565 • Fax: 202-588-5020

May 19,2010

By Email: alexandramallusW>

U.S. Department of the Interior

Attn : Alexandra Mallus
Departmental FOIA Officer (MS-7438 MIB)
Office of the Chief Information Officer
1849 C Street, N .W.
Washington, D.C . 20240

Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

Dear Ms. Mallus:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Greenpeace make
this request for records, regardless of format, medium, or physical characteristics, and
including electronic records and information, pursuant to the Freedom ofInformation Act,
U.S.C. § 552, and U.S. Department ofInterior (Interior) FOIA Regulations, 43 C.F.R. Part 2.

Specifically, CREW and Greenpeace seek:

(1) copies of any and all video feeds that capture in whole or in part any aspect of the
British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (BP oil spill)
including, but not limited to, the ongoing live video feed of the BP oil spill provided by BP,
as referenced in Brian Ross , BP Releases Oil Spill Video After Pressure From White House
and Media, ABC News, May 12,2010, available at http://abcn
oil-spill-video-pressure-white -house/story?id=10629165 ; and

(2) all documents that mention, refer, or relate to Interior communications concerning
the use of dispersants in the course of any efforts to mitigate or clean up the BP oil spill,
including, but not limited to, all internal Interior communications as well as all
communications to, by, or from Interior to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, BP, Halliburton, or Transocean
regarding the use of dispersants in the course of any efforts to mitigate or clean up the BP oil

Please search for responsive records regardless of format , medium, or physical

characteristics. We seek records of any kind, including electronic records , audiotapes,
videotapes, photographs, and back-up tapes. Our request includes any telephone messages,
voice mail messages, daily agenda and calendars, information about scheduled meetings
and/or discussions, whether in-person or over the telephone, agendas for those meetings
and/or discussions, participants included in those meetings and/or discussions, minutes of any
Alexandra Mallus
May 19,2010
Page Two

such meetings and/or discussions, the topics discussed at those meetings and/or discussions,
email regarding meetings and/or discussions, email or facsimiles sent as a result of those
meetings and/or discussions, and transcripts and notes of any such meetings and/or
discussions to the extent they relate to the aforementioned requested information.

If it is your position that any portion of the requested records is exempt from
disclosure, we request that you provide an index of those documents as required under
Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 977 (1972). As you
are aware, a Vaughn index must describe each document claimed as exempt with sufficient
specificity "to permit a reasoned judgment as to whether the material is actually exempt under
FOIA." Founding Church ofScientology v. Bell, 603 F.2d 945,959 (D.C. Cir. 1979).
Moreover, the Vaughn index must "describe each document or portion thereof withheld, and
for each withholding it must discuss the consequences of supplying the sought-after-
information." King v. u.s. Dep 't ofJustice, 830 F.2d 210,223-24 (D.C. Cir. 1987),
(emphasis added). Further, "the withholding agency must supply 'a relatively detailed
justification, specifically identifying the reasons why a particular exemption is relevant and
correlating those claims with the particular part of a withheld document to which they apply."
Id. at 224, citing Mead Data Central v. u.s. Dep 't ofthe Air Force, 566 F.2d 242,251 (D.C.
Cir. 1977).

In the event some portions of the requested records are properly exempt from
disclosure, please disclose any reasonably segregable non-exempt portions of the requested
records. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b). If it is your position that a document contains non-exempt
segments, but that those non-exempt segments are so dispersed throughout the document as to
make segregation impossible, please state what portion of the document is non-exempt and
how the material is dispersed throughout the documents. Mead Data Central, 566 F.2d at
261. Claims of non-segregability must be made with the same degree of detail as required for
claims of exemption in a Vaughn index. If a request is denied in whole, please state
specifically it is not reasonable to segregate portions of the record for release.

Public Interest Fee Waiver Request

In accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii), CREW and Greenpeace request a

waiver of fees associated with processing this request for records. The subject of this request
concerns the operations of the federal government and the disclosures likely will contributed
to a better understanding of relevant government procedures by CREW, Greenpeace, and the
general public in a significant way. Moreover the request primarily and fundamentally is for
non-commercial purposes. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a) (4) (A)(iii). See, e.g., McClellan Ecological v.
Carlucci, 835 F.2d 1282, 1285 (9th Cir. 1987).

Specifically, the requested records will inform the public about the extent of the
danger to public safety and health that the BP oil spill poses, the steps the government has
taken to date and plans to take in the future to protect the public from those dangers, and the
extent to which the government, including Interior, has prevented the public from knowing
Alexandra Mallus
May 19,2010
Page Three

the full extent of the dangers the BP oil spill poses. In the nearly one month since the BP oil
spill first occurred, there have been widely varying reports regarding the amount of oil that is
spilling out into the Gulf of Mexico on a daily basis. Through this request, CREW and
Greenpeace seek evidence that would help ascertain a more accurate estimate than that which
BP has been reporting publicly. Further, this material will inform the public of the amount of
oil spilling into the Gulf and the extent to which Interior and other federal agencies have been
in possession of this information.

CREW is a non-profit corporation, organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal

Revenue Code. CREW is committed to protecting the public's right to be aware of the
activities of government officials and to ensuring the integrity of those officials. CREW is
dedicated to empowering citizens for have an influential voice in government decisions and in
the government decision-making process. CREW uses a combination of research, litigation,
and advocacy to advance its mission. The release of information garnered through this
request is not in CREW's financial interest. In addition, CREW will disseminate any
documents it acquires from this request to the public through its website,, which also contains links to thousands of other pages of
documents CREW acquired from multiple FOIA requests.

Greenpeace is also a non-profit corporation and has no commercial interest in any of

the requested documents. Greenpeace makes this request entirely on behalf of the public

Under these circumstances, CREW and Greenpeace satisfy fully the criteria for a fee

News Media Fee Waiver Request

CREW also asks that it not be charged search or review fees for this request because
CREW qualifies as a "representative of the news media" pursuant to the FOIA and 43 C.F.R.
§ 2.17(a)(3). In Nat'l Sec. Archive v. Us. Dep t ofDefense, 880 F.2d 1381,1386 (D.C. Cir.
1989), the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found the National Security Archive was a
representative of the news media under the FOIA, relying on the FOIA's legislative history,
which indicates the phrase "representative of the news media" is to be interpreted broadly "if
the act is to work as expected ... In fact, any person or organization which regularly
publishes or disseminates information to the public ... should qualify as a 'representative of
the news media." 132 Congo Rec. S14298 (daily ed. Sept. 30, 1986), cited in id.

CREW routinely and systematically disseminates information to the public in several

ways. First, CREW maintains a frequently visited website,, that
received 87,479 visits in April 2010. The website reports the latest developments and
contains in-depth information about a variety of activities of government agencies and
Alexandra Mallus
May 19,2010
Page Four

Second , since May 2007, CREW has published an online newsletter, CREWCuts, that
currently has 15,675 subscribers. CREWCuts provides subscribers with regular update s
regarding CREW's activities and information the organization has received from government
entities. A complete archive of past CREWCuts is available at
http://www.citizen sforethics .org/newsletter.

Third, CREW publishes a blog, Citizens bloggingfor responsibility and ethics in

Washington, that reports on and analyzes newsworthy developments regarding government
ethics and corruption. The blog, located at, also
provides links that direct readers to other news articles and commentary on these issues.
CREW 's blog had 3,131 hits in April 2010.

Finally , CREW has published numerous reports to educate the public about
government ethics and corruption, including agencies' and agency officials ' failure to comply
with their legal responsibilities. See Record Chaos, which examines agency compliance with
electronic record keeping responsibilities; The Revolving Door , a comprehensive look into the
post-government activities of24 former members of President Bush 's cabinet; and Those Who
Dared: 30 Officials Who Stood Up For Our Country . These and all other CREW's reports
are available at s.

Based on these extensi ve publication activities , CREW qualifies for a fee waive r as a
"representative of the news media" under the FOIA.

Request for Expedition

Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(E)(i) and 43 C.F.R. § 2.14, CREW and Greenpeace

request that Interior expedite the processing of this request in light of the urgency to inform
the public about the full extent of the BP oil spill and the government reaction to that spill.
As explained above , CREW is engaged primarily in the dissemination of information it
gathers from a variety of sources, including the FOIA , and seeks the information requested in
this FOIA request for the express purpose of disseminating it to the public . CREW's website ,, contains links to thousands of pages of documents CREW
acquired from multiple FOIA requests, as well as documents related to CREW's FOIA
litigation and other complaints.

There is a particular urgency to inform the public about the true circumstances
surrounding the BP oil spill in light of the widely varying reports about the extent of the spill
and the catastrophic effects it is predicated to have. A recent article in the Washington Post
called the challenge of cleaning up the BP oil spill "unprecedented," and noted the leak may
be as much as five to ten times greater than the initial estimate of 5,000 barrels per day.
David A. Fahrenhold and Juliet Eilperin, Challenge of Cleaning Up Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
' Unprecedented" at Such Depths , The Washington Post, May 15,2010 (attached as Exhibit
Alexandra Mallus
May 19, 2010
Page Five

A). That same article noted that no less than six probes are currently underway examining,
, among other things, the extent to which "officials might have vastly
underestimated the seriousness of the spill's impact." Id. BP has admitted to Congress in a
closed-door briefing that the oil spill "could conceivably spill as much as 60,000 barrels a day
of oil, more than 10 times the estimate of the current flow." John M. Broder, Campbell,
Clifford Krauss, Amount of Spill Could Escalate, Company Admits, The New York Times,
May 4, 2010 (attached as Exhibit B). .At the same time, however, the public has not yet been
granted access to evidence, .including the videotape feeds requested herein, that would more
accurately confirm the amount ofthe spill, This evidence quite obviously bears on the extent
of damage the BP oil spill will cause, a matter of great urgency and enormous public interest.
See Richard Harris, Gulf Spill May Far Exceed Official Estimates, NPR, May 14,2010
(transcript attached as Exhibit C) (reporting on findings that resulted from experts'
examination of a short segment of the video feed BP released last week). Current estimates
are that the BP oil spill will reach the Florida Keys, by this Sunday, expanding exponentially
the anticipated damage it will cause. Gulf Oil Spill Could Reach Florida Keys By Sunday,
AssociatedPress, May 18, 2010 (attached as Exhibit D).

Under these circumstances, CREW and Greenpeace clearly meet the requirements for
expedition set out in the FOIA and Interior regulations.

Pursuant to 43 C.F.R. § 2. 14(c), the undersigned hereby certifies that the basis for this
request for expedition is true and correct to the best of their knowledge and belief.

If you have any questions about this request or foresee any problems in releasing fully
the requested records on an expedited basis, please contact Anne Weismann at (202) 408-
5565. Also, if CREW's and Greenpeace's request for a fee waiver is not granted in full, '
please contact Ms. Weismann immediately upon making such determination. Please send the _
requested records to Damon Moglen, Global Warming Campaign Director, Greenpeace, 702
H Street, N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20001. '

. Slnr

Chief Counsel

Damon Moglen
Global Warming Campaign Director

Challenge of cleaning up Gulf of Mexico oil spill 'unprecedented' at such depths Page 1 of 4

itbt ttl 1)ington JlOilt

Challenge of cleaning up Gulf of
Mexico oil spill 'unprecedented' at
such depths
By David A. Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 15,2010; AOI

ELMERS ISLAND, LA. -- The oil spill in the Gulf of

]Y1exico has not yet caused coastal damage on the scale
of the Exxon Valdez disaster. But scientists say it is
becoming something different and potentially much
more troubling: the first massive U.S. oil spill whose
effects so far are largely hidden underwater.

Three weeks after crude oil began billowing into the gulf, the spill has threatened the long-term
livelihoods of thousands of gulf residents, enmeshed three major global companies in litigation and
could destroy parts of Louisiana's ecologically valuable marshes.

The 1989 Valdez accident looks simple by comparison. No one questioned the cause -- an Exxon tanker
that ran aground -- and the oil was released in one enormous but finite swoop into Alaska's pristine and
remote Prince William Sound.

Now there seems to be much more blame to spread around, whether it's aimed at oil company BP, rigs
operator Transocean, cementing company Halliburton or the Obama administration, which has come
under fire for failing to prevent the spill and for its response to what National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco calls "an unprecedented, dynamic challenge."

Because the accident happened in the gulfs crowded commercial corridor, the impact could be much
more costly and damaging.

With a half-dozen probes underway, lawmakers and outside groups are questioning who in the corporate
and federal world is at fault and to what extent these officials might have vastly underestimated the
seriousness of the spill's impact.

Because of the leak's extreme depth, and the effects of dispersants, the spill is breaking the maxim that
oil floats. Instead, scientists fear it is settling on sensitive corals or poisoning ecosystems that produce
shrimp, snapper and sport fish, all too deep for scientists to watch or help.

"This monster's turned invisible," said Plaquemines Parish President William "Billy" Nungesser on
Thursday. "How do you fight that monster when it's invisible?"

The spill's impacts on underwater creatures might not be fully understood for years, said Ronald J.
Kendall, a professor at Texas Tech University. "It's a massive eco-toxicological experiment underway."

The unusual behavior of the spill has left the Gulf Coast in limbo since April 22, when the burning
Deepwater Horizon oil rig finally sank more than 40 miles off Venice, La. The oil, squeezed by intense 0/05/14/AR201 0051404526~... 5/18/2010

Challenge of cleaning up Gulf of Mexico oil spill 'unprecedented' at such depths Page 2 of 4

geologic pressure, has been spewing out of the broken-off drill pipe at a rate that has defied estimation.

The leak appears to be growing far faster than the original estimate of 5,000 barrels a day. Some experts
say the rate could be as much as five or 10 times that.

So every day, the threat hanging over Louisiana's coast gets bigger. But every day, the punch doesn't

This island, on an end-of-the-Earth stretch of Louisiana's coast, is one of the few places where oil has
washed up. Dime-size wads of goo called "tar balls" are almost lost in a beach littered with shells, crab
carcasses and garbage. Larger tar balls, some eight inches across, washed up on the beach nearby at Port

The reason for the oil's delayed appearance, scientists say, begins with the oil itself.

The Valdez dumped its crude at the water's surface. But this oil is flowing out nearly a mile underwater
and takes, by one estimate, three hours to reach the surface. That trip changes the oil, mixes it with water
and forms it into something that looks like molasses or chocolate mousse.

"There's no black tide out there," said Ed Overton, a professor of environmental science at Louisiana
State University. He said that some of the most toxic compounds in the oil from this spill had weathered
away after spending time at sea, giving the oil a less eye-watering scent and the color and consistency of
cold fudge sauce.

That consistency, he said, means the gulf oil doesn't float on the water, but down in it. So it is less likely
to be pushed toward shore by wind and more likely to be held offshore by the swirling water currents
where the Mississippi River pours into the gulf.

"I think we lucked out," Overton said. "If we could stop the spill, time would be on our side."

Roughly 476,000 gallons of dispersant applied to the slick helped break it up and prevent it from
becoming a major tide washing ashore. But that doesn't mean that the oil has disintegrated instantly.

The fact that the oil has not hit the shoreline with any force has led many, including executives at BP --
which was leasing the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded and sank -- to declare that they have
managed to mitigate the spill's impact. The methods they have used to disperse the spill, they said, make
it more likely that it will dissipate and be consumed by natural oil-eating bacteria.

But some scientists say they're troubled by how little they know about this spill. Oil on the surface can
be spotted by planes and satellite images. But there is relatively little equipment in the gulf region that
can tell where oil has traveled below the surface.

On Friday, Sen. Bill Nelson CD-Fla.) asked BP to bring "any and all" additional video it might have to
Washington on Tuesday, when BP America's president, Lamar McKay, is scheduled to testify before the
Senate commerce committee.

"By dispersing the stuff at depth, it creates essentially smaller globules of oil [and] it makes the oil more
likely to be affected by even slow-moving currents," said James H. Cowan Jr., a professor of
oceanography and coastal sciences at Louisiana State University. "We just don't know where it is, and
we don't know where it's going." 10/05/14/AR20 10051404526 y... 5/18/2010

Challenge of cleaning up Gulf of Mexico oil spill 'unprecedented' at such depths Page 3 of 4

They fear it could be settling on underwater formations far out on the gulf floor, places with such
fanciful names as the Alabama Alps and the Flower Gardens. These include coral formations that can
look like standing forests of trees and support populations offish such as red snapper.

Or, they worry, the underwater oil might be absorbed or eaten by the small animals and plants at the
base of the gulf food chain.

To the fishermen of south Louisiana, the enormous, indecisive, largely unseen slick is bad enough
already. Many have been idled as fishing grounds are declared off-limits or closed off with floating
booms meant to hold back the oil. On Thursday night in Cut Off, La., shrimper Clifton Billiot, 55, said
there was little he could do to protect his livelihood.

This was all: "Pray that it don't come," he said. "And that you can stop that [expletive]" from spreading
onto land.

English-speaking shrimpers usually call what's happening in the gulf "the oil spill." Billiot said Cajuns
call it deshonneur, which, he said, means "disaster."

Eilperin reportedfrom Washington.

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Amount of Spilling Oil Could Soar, BP Admits - Page 1 of 4

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May 4,2010

Amount of Spill Could Escalate,

Company Admits
This article is by John M. Broder, Campbell Robertson and Clifford Krauss.

WASHINGTON - In a closed-door briefing for members of Congress, a senior BP executive

conceded Tuesday that the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico could conceivably spill as
much as 60,000 barrels a day of oil, more than 10 times the estimate of the current flow.

The scope of the problem has grown drastically since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded
and sank into the gulf. Now, the discussion with BP on Capitol Hill is certain to intensify
pressure on the company, which is facing a crisis similar to what the Toyota Motor Company
had with uncontrolled acceleration - despite its efforts to control the damage to its
reputation as a corporate citizen, the problem may be worsening.

Amid growing uncertainty about the extent of the leak, and when it might be stanched,
pressure on BP intensified on multiple fronts Tuesday, from increasingly frustrated
residents of the Gulf Coast to federal, state and local officials demanding more from the

The company considered a broad advertising campaign, but top BP executives rejected the
idea before planning even started. "In our view, the big glossy expressions of regret don't
have a lot of credibility," said Andrew Gowers, a BP spokesman.

Instead, the company has dispatched executives to hold town meetings in the affected
region, and it has turned to lower-profile social media outlets to trumpet its cleanup efforts
and moves to organize volunteers.

The Senate energy committee has summoned executives from BP and Transocean Ltd., the
rig operator, as well as a number of oil industry technical experts to a hearing next week The 10/05/05/us/05spill.html?src=mv&pagewanted=print 5/18/2010

Amount of Spilling Oil Could Soar, BP Admits - Page 2 of 4

next day, the oversight and investigations subcommittee of the House Energy and
Commerce Committee will hold a hearing, to which top executives of BP, Transocean and
Halliburton have been asked to appear, a committee spokeswoman said.

That panel, which will look at the possible problems leading to explosions on the rig as well
as the adequacy of containment and cleanup measures, would probably be the first of
several, Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan, the subcommittee chairman,
said in a statement.

A separate federal investigation into the explosion is under way by the Coast Guard and the
Minerals Management Service.

At Tuesday's briefing, David Rainey, the BP vice president for Gulf of Mexico production,
said the company was employing a variety of untried techniques to stanch the oil gushing
from the well 5,000 feet below the surface.

At the briefing, Mr. Rainey and officials from Transocean and from Halliburton, which was
providing cementing services on the platform, also acknowledged that they did not know
how likely it was that oil from the spill would be caught up in the so-called loop currents in
the gulf and be carried through the Florida Keys into the Atlantic Ocean. "What we heard
today from BP, Halliburton and Transocean were a lot of worst-case scenarios without any
best-case solutions," said Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts,
who leads the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the House energy panel.

Federal officials have raised the possibility of a leak of more than 100,000 barrels a day if
the well were to flow unchecked, but the chances of that situation occurring were unclear.

Also on Tuesday, the company's chief executive, Tony Hayward, told Senator Bill Nelson,
Democrat of Florida, that the spill would clearly cause more than $75 million in economic
damage, the current cap on liability for drilling accidents.

Mr. Nelson and the two Democratic senators from New Jersey, Frank R. Lautenberg and
Robert Menendez, have introduced legislation to raise that cap to $10 billion, and to make
sure that the new limit applies to this spill.

While BP continues to acknowledge its responsibility to shut off and clean up the oil, it is
being barraged by government officials and civil lawyers who are redoubling efforts to
ensure that the company's legal obligations are clearly defined and strictly enforced.

Attorneys general from the five Gulf Coast states have been drafting a letter to BP that will
layout demands. In the letter, they are expected to urge BP specifically to define what is

http://www.nytimes.coml201 0105/05/us/05spill.html?src=mv&pagewanted=print 511812010

Amount of Spilling Oil Could Soar, BP Admits - NY'I' Page 3 of 4

meant by its repeated statement that it intends to pay "legitimate" claims, a term Attorney
General Troy King of Alabama said was unacceptably nebulous.

They are also expected to press for a fund to begin paying out claims to state and local
governments and to residents.

The attorneys general asked for the creation of such a fund in a meeting with BP officials on
Sunday, and the next day BP announced that $25 million block grants were going to the four
states most likely to be affected to help begin their efforts to prepare. But, Mr. King said,
"that's not going to be enough."

For now, weather patterns seem to be holding the giant oil slick offshore, and are expected to
do so for several more days, temporarily sparing the coast - and sparing BP the renewed
criticism that would surely come with oil landfall. A containment dome is being readied to
drop over the worst of the leaks.

BP has significantly stepped up its lobbying on Capitol Hill, spending nearly $16 million in
2009, more than triple what it spent just two years before, according to data compiled by the
Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.

But that money does not sway public opinion.

The company's top crisis managers have been dispatched to the gulf. Mr. Gowers, the BP
spokesman, said the company was now "considering some targeted advertising in the
affected states" to publicize how to make claims and how to sign up to help with the cleanup.

Mr. Hayward also gave a briefing on Tuesday for reporters from Gulf Coast newspapers and
The Associated Press in which he said he wanted to "win the hearts and minds" of the

Mr. Hayward has been a frequent guest on the morning news shows, with a consistent
message: "It wasn't our accident, but we are absolutely responsible for the oil, for cleaning it
up. "

It is a mixed message, advertising experts say.

"It's a situation laced with irony, and perceived hypocrisy," said Abbey Klaassen, executive
editor of Advertising Age. "It is a fine line between what they want to say for legal reasons
and what consumers want to hear which is: 'Mea culpa. We accept responsibility, we will
clean it up, and this will never happen again.' " 5/18/2010
Amount of Spilling Oil Could Soar, BP Admits - Page 4 of 4

BP is playing to a particularly skeptical and vigilant audience in the gulf, where people have
become accustomed to frustrating clashes with insurance companies and government
agencies in the five years since Hurricane Katrina.

"We're preparing for the worst," said Jim Hood, the attorney general of Mississippi,
referring both to the spill itself and the possibility of fierce legal struggles. The state has been
taking photos and video of coastal areas and counting fish and birds, he said, to have a
record of what exists before the oil arrives.

Campbell Robertson reportedfrom New Orleans, John M. Broder from Washington, and
Clifford Kraussfrom Houston. Sewell Chan contributed reporting from Washington. 10/05/05/us/05spill.html?src=mv&pagewanted=print 5/18/2010

Gulf Oil Spill May Far Exceed Government, BP Estimates: NPR http://www .npr .org/templates/story/story.php?storyld= 126809525

Gulf Spill May Far Exceed Official Estimates


Source: BP video from May 11 showing oil and gas streaming from the Deepwater Horizon well.

May 14, 2010 text size A A A

The amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico may be at least 10 times the size of official estimates,
according to an exclusive analysis conducted for NPR.

At NPR's request, experts examined video that BP released Wednesday. Their findings suggest the BP
spill is already far larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska, which spilled at least 250, 000
barrels of oil.

BP has said repeatedly that there is no reliable way to measure the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by looking
at the oil gushing out of the pipe. But scientists say there are actually many proven techniques for doing
just that.

Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, analyzed

videotape of the seafloor gusher using a technique called particle image velocimetry.

A computer program simply tracks particles and

calculates how fast they are moving. Wereley put
the BP video of the gusher into his computer. He
made a few simple calculations and came up with
an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill:
70,000 barrels a day - much higher than the
official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.

The method is accurate to a degree of plus or

lof6 5/18/20105:07 PM
Gulf Oil Spill May Far Exceed Government, BP Estimates: NPR http://www .npr.erg/temp lates/story/story. php?storyld= I26809525

minus 20 percent.

Given that uncertainty, the amount of material

Enlarge John rvbore/Getty Images
Contract workers load oil booms onto a boat to spewing from the pipe could range from 56,000
protect marshlands from the massive oil slick in the Gulf of barrels to 84,000 barrels a day. It is important to
Mexico on May 13, 2010 in Hopedale, Louisiana. The BP note that it's not all oil. The short video BP released
Deepwater Horizon oil rig continues to leak what may be an
starts out with a shot of methane, but at the end it
unprecedented amount of oil and gas into U.S. waters.
seems to be mostly oil.

"There's potentially some fluctuation back and forth between methane and oil," Wereley said.

But assuming that the lion's share of the material coming out of the pipe is oil, Wereley's calculations show
that the official estimates are too low.

"We're talking more than a factor-of-1 0 difference between what I calculate and the number that's being
thrown around," he said.

At least two other calculations support him.

NPR's Richard
Harris talks to Timothy Crone, an associate research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth
Michele Norris on All
Things Considered Observatory, used another well-accepted method to calculate fluid flows. Crone
[3 min 45 sec] arrived at a similar figure, but he said he'd like better video from BP before
drawing a firm conclusion.

Eugene Chiang, a professor of astrophysics at the University of California, Berkeley, also got a similar
answer, using just pencil and paper.

Without even having a sense of scale from the BP video, he correctly deduced that the diameter of the
pipe was about 20 inches. And though his calculation is less precise than Wereley's, it is in the same

"I would peg it at around 20,000 to 100,000 barrels per day," he said.

Chiang called the current estimate of 5,000 barrels a day "almost certainly incorrect."

Given this flow rate, it seems this is a spill of unprecedented proportions in U.S. waters.

"It would just take a few days, at most a week, for it to exceed the Exxon Valdez's record," Chiang said.

BP disputed these figures.

"We've said all along that there's no way to estimate the flow coming out of the pipe accurately," said Bill
Salvin, a BP spokesman.

Instead, BP prefers to rely on measurements of oil on the sea surface made by the Coast Guard and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Those are also contentious. Salvin also says these
analyses should not assume that the oil is spewing from the 21-inch pipe, called a riser, shown in the video.

"The drill pipe, from which the oil is rising, is actually a 9-inch pipe that rests within the riser," Slavin said.

2 of6 5/I8/2010 5:07 PM

Gulf Oil Spill May Far Exceed Government, BP Estimates: NPR http://www story/ story. php?storyld= I26809525

But Wereley says that fact doesn't skew his calculation. And though scientists say they hope BP will
eventually release more video and information so they can refine their estimates, what they have now is
good enough.

"It's possible to get a pretty decent number by looking at the video," Wereley said.

This new, much larger number suggests that capturing - and cleaning up - this oil may be a much bigger
challenge than anyone has let on.

Related NPR Stories

BP Chief Says Gulf Oil Spill Is Relatively Small May 14, 2010
Suit Challenging Shell's Arctic Drilling Plan Rejected May 13, 2010
Transocean Seeks To Limit Liability For Oil Rig Blast May 13, 2010

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Recent First
Jerry McCutcheon (AKgasman) wrote:
Why would the only blowout oil be through the 9" drill pipe? That would imply that BOP
successfully and completely closed around 21" casing which is not rational. I would guess that
there is enough unclose space around the drill pipe to equal the drill pipe cross sectional area.

The 'suction' hose is only 4"; to say suction hose is picking up 1/5th oil from that portion of the
blowout is wildly optimistic. Internally you would only have 3' diameter 5000 feet friction for N2
gas lift to overcome. Sounds like the typical oil company lie. Lie get caught, retreat and lie
The Gulf floor blowout volume is grossly understated.
BP deliberately sank the drilling platform under the guise putting out the fire. The fire was
consuming the blowout oil on the drilling and in water around the drilling rig. BP could see that
platform was listing and sinking thus BP knew the platform would sink if BP kept pouring water
on the platform.
BP deliberately sank the platform and dump the blowout oil into the Gulf To destroy & secrete
the drilling records the drilling records and logs that were not sent ashore.
That kind of a platform is not that difficult raise to surface. It will come up upside down but
divers can still re
Tuesday, May 18,20104:39:59 PM

30f6 5/18/20105:07 PM
Gulf oil spill could reach Florida Keys by Sunday - 10/0518/Gulf-oil-...


Gulf oil spill could reach Florida Keys by Sunday

University scientists say a portion of the Gulf oil spill could reach Key West in the Florida
Keys next weekend.

Crews collect sand samples at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park beach in Key West Fla.,Tuesday May 17, 2010. Twenty tar balls were
found in Key West on Monday and are being analyzed to see if they came from the Deepwater oil spill. University scientists say oil from
the Gulf spill could reach the Florida Keys by Sunday.

AP Photoffhe Citizen, Rob O'Neal

By Associated Press I May 18, 2010

Tampa, Florida
University scientists are forecasting that oil from the spill off Louisiana could reach Florida's Key West by Sunday.

University of South Florida researchers said Tuesday the southern arm of the
massive spill has entered or is near the so-called loop current, which circulates in
the Gulf and takes water south to the Florida Keys and the Gulf Stream. The Gulf
Stream could eventually take the oil up Florida's Atlantic coast.
Photo Gallery
Louisiana oil spill
Twenty tar balls were found by the Coast Guard off Key West on Monday. They are
being tested by the Coast Guard to see if they came from the Louisiana spill or
elsewhere. Tar balls can occur naturally or come from other sources such as ships.

USF scientists use currents, wind forecasts and other elements to make their predictions.


Gulf oil spill: Has BP 'turned corner' with siphon success?

lof2 5/18/20105: 11 PM
Gulf oil spill could reach Florida Keys by Sunday - http://www.csmonitor.comiFrom-the-news-wires/20 I0/0518/Gulf-oi 1- ...

Gulf spill oil driven by complex ocean currents and eddies

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20f2 5/18/20105: II PM