NEW ORLEANS (CN) - BP prolonged the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by two months by concealing the rate of oil flowing from the broken Macondo well, Transocean claims in a document filed in the damages trial.
A bench trial to apportion damages is being held before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier. Penalties for Clean Water Act violations alone could range from $4 billion to $17 billion.
Transocean wrote in a heavily redacted "supplemental answer and affirmative defenses" that "BP's fraud was the proximate, intervening and superseding cause of the well continuing to flow until mid-July 2010. BP's misrepresentation and concealment of material information about the flow rate caused source control decision-makers to approve proceeding with the top kill over the BOP-on-BOP strategy in mid-May 2010. Because of that, a well that could have been capped in early May 2010 emitted tens of thousands of barrels per day for another two months causing significant environmental pollution."
BOP-on-BOP was an alternative strategy that BP rejected, according to Transocean's document, which was filed Friday.
Transocean claims that BP's motive was to keep the true flow rate hidden, to minimize environmental fines, which are assessed by the barrel.
Transocean says in the 49-page document that "on January 29, 2013, U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance accepted BP's plea of guilty to a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1505 (Obstruction of Congress). ... BP's guilty plea confirmed that BP made misrepresentations to the United States Government regarding the flow rate from the Macondo well. BP's admission that it misrepresented the flow rate constitutes not only criminal conduct, but tortious conduct as well. As more fully described below, BP fraudulently misrepresented and concealed flow rate and source control information from those who were working to stop the flow of oil from the Macondo well. Because BP's misconduct with respect to flow rate impeded efforts to contain and cap the Macondo well, BP's tortious acts constitute the superseding and intervening cause of oil flowing from the well for 87 days instead of a much shorter period of time."
Doug Suttles at the time was CEO of BP's Exploration and Production business, BP's lead representative at Unified Command, and the leader of BP's overall response to the oil spill.
Transocean's document states that "on April 28, 2010, Suttles represented to Admiral Landry in a meeting at Unified Command that BP's internal flow rate estimate was between 1,000 and 5,000 barrels of oil per day ('bopd') with 2,500 bopd being the most likely flow rate number."
Transocean claims those numbers "were false and misleading and omitted material information within BP's possession."
(An email conversation between BP officials on the day the rig sank, released last year, shows that BP had estimated that oil could have been flowing at up to 82,000 barrels a day, or well over 3.4 million gallons.)
(The email from Rob Marshall, BP subsea manager of the Gulf, on April 22, 2010, two days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 people and set off the worst oil spill in U.S. history, stated: "Alistair Johnston altered his Macondo well model to approximate open hole flowing conditions and calculated a rate of 82,000 barrels per day."