THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Oil recovery efforts fall far short of BP’s promises

By Kimberly Kindy
The Washington Post / July 6, 2010

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WASHINGTON — In the 77 days since oil from the ruptured Deepwater Horizon began to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, BP has skimmed or burned about 60 percent of the amount it promised regulators it could remove in a single day.

The disparity between what BP promised in its March 24 filing with federal regulators and the amount of oil recovered since the April 20 explosion underscores what some officials and environmental groups call a misleading numbers game that has led to widespread confusion about the extent of the spill and the progress of the recovery.

“It’s clear they overreached,’’ said John Young, council chairman in Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish. “I think the federal government should have at the very least picked up a phone and started asking some questions and challenged them about the accuracy of that number and tested the veracity of that claim.’’

In a March report that was not questioned by federal officials, BP said it had the capacity to skim and remove 491,721 barrels of oil each day in the event of a major spill.

As of Monday, with about 2 million barrels released into the gulf, the skimming operations have averaged less than 900 barrels a day.

Skimming has captured only 67,143 barrels, and BP has relied on burning to remove 238,095 barrels. Most of the oil recovered — about 632,410 barrels — was captured directly at the site of the leaking well.

BP officials declined to comment on the validity of early skimming projections, stressing instead the company’s commitment to building relief wells intended to shut down the still-gushing well.

“The numbers are what they are,’’ said BP spokesman Toby Odone. “At some point, we will look back and say why the numbers ended up this way. That’s for the future.’’

The skimming effort has been hampered from the start by numerous factors, including the slow response of emergency workers, inadequate supplies and equipment, untrained cleanup crews, and inclement weather. Greatly compounding the problem was the fact that much of the oil never surfaced.

The poor results of the skimming operations have led to a desperate search for solutions. The world’s largest skimmer, owned by the Taiwanese, is on site and undergoing Coast Guard safety tests. The ship was touted as having the ability to remove oil at the rate of tens of thousands of barrels every day. Thus far, it has been unable to produce those results in the gulf.