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Feds And BP Clash Over Barrels Spilled At Macondo Trial

This text is printed in “The Louisiana Weekly” within the Oct. 14, 2013 edition.
At the Macondo spill trial, number crunching or quantification of the oil circulation started Monday in U.S. District Courtroom in New Orleans, with Decide Carl Barbier presiding. The United States is on one side with a determine of about 5 million barrels for the catastrophe that commenced in late April 2010, versus BP and Anadarko on the other with three.26 million barrels. By Wednesday afternoon, the feds had rested their case on quantification, and BP began calling its witnesses Thursday.

In Monday’s opening assertion, government legal professional Steve O’Rourke said the United States would current four specialists using different methodologies. In modeling by these witnesses, principle engineer Ronald Dykhuizen of Sandia Nationwide Laboratories considered the effectively’s capping stack information; retired Sandia senior scientist and engineer Stewart Griffiths examined blowout preventer information; University of Tulsa engineering professor Mohan Kelkar used a material balance strategy; and Mehran Pooladi-Darvish, senior director at IHS Inc. relied on reservoir simulation. The upshot of those studies was “all of them match up at around 5 million barrels of oil whole,” O’Rourke mentioned.

Those 4 specialists used data provided by BP throughout the spill, and “they every conclude that the rate firstly was about sixty two,000 barrels of oil per day,” O’Rourke mentioned. “By the final day, July 15, 2010, it was about 53,000 barrels. Adding those days up, it was 5 million barrels.”

About 812,000 barrels had been collected in the course of the spill by the highest Hat containment machine, the capping stack and drilling vessel Helix Q4000, O’Rourke said. That left four.2 million barrels launched out of the 5 million barrels that exited the nicely, he mentioned.

The fed’s science staff for the spill included three national laboratories associated with the U.S. Dept. of Energy–Sandia, Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos, collectively referred to as Tri-Labs. The staff, led by Sandia director Tom Hunter, provided assistance within the spill response, O’Rourke mentioned.

“The defendants would possibly present a case to you that these Tri-Labs people have been just political hacks, put there by the Administration to generate a high stream rate,” O’Rourke said. “But Dr. Hunter will come and testify to you that there was no conspiracy, no Administration agenda. They were there to try to get the proper solutions and to assist.” When BP needed to shut in the Macondo effectively, it relied on National Labs’ calculations, he stated.

O’Rourke mentioned the defendants will not current a remaining, every day flow rate in the course of the quantification trial. “They will nitpick at our specialists for certain, however they will not inform you what the actual circulate fee was,” he said.

The feds are using the oil trade’s definition of barrels in their authorized battle against BP. “In the Clean Water Act, the penalty solely applies to barrels, defined as forty two gallons at 60 levels Fahrenheit,” O’Rourke said. “It does not state what strain. However in the industry, there is a time period referred to as stock-tank barrel. And that is 42 gallons at 60 degrees Fahrenheit at one atmosphere strain or sea level pressure.”

Barrel measurement starts in the reservoir, O’Rourke mentioned. “What occurs is as these barrels come up and the strain abates, the gasoline comes out–comes out as a solution, with off gases,” he said. “So by the time it will get to the surface of the water, a barrel down in the reservoir may be only half a barrel of liquid left.”

O’Rourke stated along with its litigation specialists, the federal government panel known as the Move Price Technical Group, assembled by Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, reached a consensus on a 53,000- barrel move on the ultimate day of the spill. After that, the presidential Oil Spill Fee in October 2010 stated a consensus had emerged between federal and independent scientists, using different strategies, that roughly 5 million barrels were released.

Compared to 5 million barrels, the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska totaled 262,000 barrels. “So what we’ve got here’s a Valdez value of oil spilling out each four and a half days,” O’Rourke said.

BP lied to Congress about the circulate, O’Rourke mentioned. “They later informed their shareholders in their Securities and Change Fee filings that the natural gas prices nz circulation was four million barrels, that three.2 was collected,” he stated. “With those statements, they are going to come back right here and tell you that it wasn’t 4 million, it was 3.26 million” or lower. He said BP arrived at its current numbers by cherry-picking data and ignoring info from the spill response.

“At the shut of the proof, your Honor, we are going to ask you to seek out as a incontrovertible fact that the start of the flow period, about 62,000 barrels of oil per day were popping out; that by the top about fifty three,000 barrels have been coming out,” O’Rourke said. “For those who add these days together, it was 5 million barrels.”

In his opening, lawyer Mike Brock for BP and Anadarko, mentioned in the course of the earlier week’s source-management trial in New Orleans, witnesses testified about every day modifications in the Macondo nicely in the course of the natural gas prices nz spill. “The United States is going to present evidence that pertains to a day-by-day calculation over 86 days, when we’re ready where the wellbore is altering day by day,” he stated.

Throughout the eighty five days, many “geometry modifications” occurred because of the construction of and activities affecting the well, together with its riser, steel erosion and junk pictures, Brock stated. Junk photographs have been injections of golf balls and different objects to obstruct the movement.

“The government first got here out with their stream price estimate of around 5 million barrels on August 2, 2010 after a few hours of work,” primarily based on a model that assumed the effectively geometry had not changed in 85 days, Brock said.

Brock said some areas of the oil reservoir weren’t linked, and never all of the oil beneath may movement within the nicely. But he said the feds assumed one hundred percent circulate into the well. “So that’s one huge distinction that we have with the federal government,” he stated.

He stated in late July 2010, the feds have been below stress to come up with a every day and complete flow to announce to the general public as wild rumors flew about unaccounted-for oil. “This five million determine that they’re utilizing in this case now could be one that was designed to be a fast and soiled number for negotiation purposes, but not good science,” he mentioned.

BP has a a lot lower spill number than the feds. “It’s BP’s position that using the industry commonplace materials-steadiness equation, that the amount of oil that left the effectively was three.26 million stock-tank barrels,” Brock said. The material balance method considers oil in place earlier than the spill, and based on the principle of conservation of mass, calculates the quantity that is left within the effectively afterwards, he stated. That is a typical approach for trade to determine what occurred, he mentioned.

In testimony Tuesday, Stewart Griffiths, a retired Sandia fluid dynamics and utilized math expert, admitted he had no oil business experience but defended his Macondo mannequin–which is based on periodically measured pressures and circulate rates of collected oil, along with fluid dynamics ideas–to calculate what spewed over 86 days.

Beneath questioning from authorities lawyer Tom Benson, Griffiths stated that before May eight, 2010, erosion of metal components after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in late natural gas prices nz April affected cumulative discharge. “Erosion is a phenomenon that can occur very, very rapidly, and then slows as soon as apertures get opened a little bit bit,” he mentioned. After Might 8, 2010, the blowout preventer’s erosion had little impact on the nicely’s cumulative discharge, he mentioned. Griffiths concluded that erosion in the reservoir and wellbore diminished total discharge only slightly. BP contends that erosion lowered discharge to a larger extent.

“At the top of the day, I’ve the best confidence in 5.Zero,” million barrels having escaped the effectively, Griffiths mentioned. “I’ve truly checked these calculations more fastidiously than I have ever checked any calculations in my profession.”

On Wednesday, authorities witness Aaron Zick, a thermodynamic modeling expert, testified about fluid part conduct. He was followed by professor Mohan Kelkar, who was questioned about his materials stability modeling, uncertainty over oil in the reservoir earlier than the spill, and his circulate calculation of fifty four,000 barrels on the last day of the spill.

In testimony Wednesday, Mehran Pooladi-Darvish, a reservoir engineering expert, stated his wellbore and reservoir model put complete oil launched at 5 million to 5.3 million inventory-tank barrels.

BP began calling its witnesses Thursday. Martin Blunt, Imperial Faculty London petroleum engineering professor, was asked about Macondo reservoir traits. He mentioned the share of oil that would flow into the well from the reservoir was between 87 and ninety %, which is an excellent Refinery connectivity price. Nonetheless, in his analysis three.26 million inventory-tank barrels exited the Macondo properly in the spill.

After a time off Friday and Columbus Day Monday, the trial will resume on Oct. 15. Penalties towards BP for barrels spilled might be the topic of a later trial and could be assessed in early 2014.

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