As BP’s well gushed into the Gulf of Mexico last year, the question of exactly how much oil it was spewing was hotly contested. BP first estimated that only 1,000 barrels of oil were leaking from the well each day; only months later would a team of scientists organized by the federal government conclude that it was actually more like 53,000 barrels per day.
It wasn’t that BP couldn’t come up with a better figure even in the early days of the spill. In fact, in 2008 the company had touted its advanced technology for measuring flow rate. And in an interview with Project Gulf Impact posted today, Dr. Ira Leifer, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California-Santa Barbara, explains how BP misled the scientists they tapped to produce flow rate estimates.
“The data we had was abdominable,” says Leifer, describing footage that they were supposed to use to estimate the flow rate as “worse than the quality you typically see on YouTube.” Rather than giving them the original footage of the spill site to evaluate, it appeared as if BP had taken a video of a computer monitor showing the actually footage and given them the blurry, jerky copy. “They were purposefully trying to deceive everyone,” says Leifer.
Here’s the full video: