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BP Was Wrong About Existance of Oil Plumes

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Despite BP’s denials that they existed, it has now been confirmed by government scientists that plumes of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have formed below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. At a briefing today, an official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the government will now work on where the subsurface oil is and where it is drifting.

Various scientists have reported the presence of undersea oil plumes in the weeks following the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. But this is the first time such plumes have been confirmed by a government agency.

According to NOAA spokesperson Jane Lubchenco, tests conducted at three sites by a University of South Florida research vessel confirmed oil as far as 3,300 feet below the surface. Subsea oil was found 42 miles northeast of the well site and also 142 miles to the southeast. The concentrations at more shallow depths were identified as having come from BP’s leaking well. However, scientists were not able to find conclusive evidence that the deeper concentrations came from the well.

All along, BP has denied that these clouds of oil existed. “The oil is on the surface. It’s very difficult for oil to stay in a column,” BP CEO Tony Hayward insisted last month. “It wants to go to the surface because of the difference in specific gravity.”

The plumes, of course, aren’t the only thing BP has been wrong about in relation to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Since the blast, it has consistently underestimated the amount of crude gushing from the stricken well. BP has since stopped trying to estimate the flow rate, leaving that up to the federal government.

Now, some scientists are questioning the oil company’s claims about how well a new containment system is working to catch oil from the spewing well. BP says the system it deployed last week is siphoning roughly 11,000 barrels of oil per day from the gushing well a mile below the ocean. If BP is right, then the system should be catching most of the flow, which government scientists estimate to be 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day. But a live video feed of the undersea well appears to show just as much oil spewing into the ocean as was apparent prior to the containment system’s deployment.

One member of a government team charged with estimating the flow rate, Ira Leifer, told the Times that he thinks BP’s new system – which involved cutting through a pipe called a riser – actually made the leak worse. Prior to its deployment, the company did warn that the procedure could increase the flow rate by as much as 20 percent.

“The well pipe clearly is fluxing way more than it did before,” said Dr. Leifer, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “By way more, I don’t mean 20 percent, I mean multiple factors.”

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