Gulf spill trial: Focus on spill estimates

Experts for BP and the federal government will provide U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier with very different estimates when the second phase of a trial resumes for litigation spawned by the spill.

The amount of oil that spewed into the Gulf is a key factor in determining how much more money BP and its contractors owe for their roles in the deadly disaster.

Justice Department attorneys will try to persuade Barbier that the best set of data on oil flow comes from a pressure gauge on the capping stack used to seal the blown-out well.

“The pressure data, collection rates, and geometry of the capping stack are by far the most accurate and reliable sources of information on flow rate, and were recognized as such by all parties at the time,” they wrote in a pretrial filing.

BP, however, says the government’s experts ignored other important data. Company lawyers say its experts used a “proven methodology” that doesn’t require “simplistic and unverified assumptions about flow conditions.”

“In contrast, the United States’ experts employ unproven methods that require significant assumptions and extrapolations in lieu of, and even directly inconsistent with, the available data and other evidence,” company attorneys wrote.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was working at the site of BP’s Macondo well off the Louisiana coast when the well blew out April 20, 2010. The explosion on the rig killed 11 workers and set off a massive fire. The rig sank less than two days later to the bottom, about a mile below the Gulf surface.

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