07/18/2010 10:21 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

BP Holding the Gulf Hostage to Hide Actual Flow Rate?

Last evening, in an email statement, National Incident Commander, Thad Allen, ordered BP to reopen the well at the completion of the current shut in test.  He had ordered another 24 hours shut-in with extensive montitoring, which ends this afternoon.  This morning, Doug Suttles, standing in for Kent Wells, held the morning McBriefing, providing scant information, then proceeded to not answer reporters' questions (one per customer, no follow-ups, no coupons accepted).

The only information that I was able to glean from the McBriefing was that pressure on the well was 6,778 psi, up 78 psi since the well was shut in some 63 hours ago.  He said that the test was going well, and that the pressure is building as they expected.  I find that interesting since they have moved the "everything is going according to plan" goalpost twice in the last 2 days.  You'll recall that last Tuesday, July 13, Adm. Allen said,

"We will at some point try to get to 8,000 or 9,000 and sustain that for some period of time, and these will be done basically, as I said -- if we have a very low pressure reading, we will try and need (ph) at least six hours of those readings to try to ensure that that is the reading. If it's a little higher, we want to go for 24 hours. And if it's up at 8,000 or 9,000, we would like to go 48 hours just to make sure it can sustain those pressures for that amount of time."

Adm. Allen then went on to say that the test would go from 6 to 48 hours, and only longer if the pressure was higher.  No one from BP corrected that statement, so those numbers stood until Kent Wells moved the goalpost during his Friday, July 16 briefing, saying,

"We also said that if the pressure go above 8,000 pounds and really the number in 7,500 pounds, it would really say to us that we do have integrity under, essentially, any scenario."

Very smooth.  In one sweeping statement, that the press let him get away with, Wells moved the target pressure down as much as 1,500 psi from the 9,000 psi to 7,500, much closer to the 6,700 psi they were holding, which is actually at the lower end of the ambiguity range we talked about on Friday. Wells did it again yesterday, moving the "good integrity" range number down to 6,000 psi to 7,500 psi, saying,

"But at this point there is no evidence that we have no integrity and that's very good

and the fact that the pressure is continuing to rise is giving us more and more

confidence that as we go through this process."

So, over the last 3 days, BP has walked the "integrity" goalpost down from as high as 9,000 psi to 6,000 psi, or at least the 6,700 psi, which happens to be where they are, give or take 100 psi.  You know Adm Allen didn't just make up the 8,000 to 9,000, being a sea captain and knowing little to nothing about oil and gas.  Somebody gave him those numbers.  BP moved to goalpost and the timeline, and the press let them get away with it.  Again.

Here's the rich part.  Today, Suttles dodged virtually every inquiry as to exactly what BP intends to do, picking up the new mantra that Wells started yesterday, "Nobody wants to see any more oil going into the Gulf."  He said it at least 5 times (seemed like 100).  He said the facilities to take 100% of the flow would take until the end of the month, and coincidently, that the relief well would be ready for the kill at the same time.  He also said this morning that, in order to open up the well for containment, they would flow oil into the Gulf for up to 3 days.  3 days.  Wells said something similar yesterday, raising the specter of oil spewing into the Gulf on all of our television screens, claiming that they would have to do that to take pressure off of the well before containment could resume.  Of course, no one asked the obvious question of why they would have to do that since they have 2 closed systems with chokes tied to the well that they've already used successfully.  Unless I'm missing something, they can "relieve pressure" up the existing risers.  If they can't do that, they can certainly put the Enterprise back on station, and run a riser with a latching cap to tie directly to the top of the stack.

So the stage is set.  It sure looks like to me that BP is refusing to disclose critical data and playing chicken with the government while holding our Gulf of Mexico as hostage.  They have every motivation to not produce the well, for all the reasons we've discussed before, most importantly, being able to measure the flow; and the ROV feed of oil roaring back into the Gulf is the gun to the head.  The government should compel BP to release all the data from this test.  Again, this well, this lease, this oil and gas belong to the United States.  This well is in federal waters, and we are all owners here.  As owners of this resource, we have a right to see all the information available.  BP should immediately release all of the pressure buildup data, temperature data, acoustic data, and seismic data.  They should also release their build up models including the Horner plot forecasts that Wells discussed yesterday.  Only then can we make a judgment that BP is managing this in the best interest of the United States, not just their own.  We need no more reason for this demand than the massive scale of this catastrophe.

One more thing...these McBriefings are almost useless, and we're just passively sitting there letting BP get away with "technical briefings" that are neither technical or briefings.  It's time to start asking the hard questions, demanding the data, and to stop putting up with the one question per customer, no followups, no coupons accepted policy.  These briefings should be live, with some reporters actually present rather than just by telephone.  If the government won't do it, then we need to.  This is too important.

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