The heads of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last Thursday told BP plc CEO Tony Hayward his company is not doing enough to disclose information about the company’s leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and its efforts to contain the disaster.

They cited testimony last Monday by BP America President Lamar McKay in which he told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs “that BP was making every effort to keep the public and government officials informed,” according to the letter sent to Hayward by DHS’s Janet Napolitano and EPA’s Lisa P. Jackson.

“Those efforts, to date, have fallen short in both their scope and effectiveness,” the agency heads wrote. “In order to meet BP’s responsibilities and to fulfill this obligation, BP must make publicly available any data and other information related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that you have collected, or that will be collected in the future.

“…[A]t a minimum, all information should be posted on a publicly accessible website. BP must update this data and information daily.”

Information to be disclosed includes sampling/monitoring plans, records, video, reports collected by BP, its contractors, subcontractors, agents or employees, any reports obtained by other means and any reports of internal investigations, the letter said.

“The public and the United States Government are entitled to nothing less than complete transparency in this matter.”

The spill is the result of a well blowout that occurred a month ago and resulted in the sinking of the BP-contracted Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig owned by Transocean Ltd., and the death of 11 crew members. (see Daily GPI, May 18).

The well was thought to be leaking about 5,000 b/d, although some estimates, not accepted by BP or the U.S. Coast Guard, had said the flow was as much as 70,000 b/d. BP recently said a collection tube inserted into the well riser a week ago was collecting 5,000 b/d. Since oil could still be seen flowing into the GOM it was obvious that the leak was flowing more than 5,000 b/d, which BP conceded. The company later said the tube’s oil capture rate had declined to about 2,200 b/d. Pressure from lawmakers, the media and public has mounted on BP to determine and disclose exactly how much oil it thinks has been leaking.

Last Friday BP was preparing to initiate a “top kill” on Tuesday to try to stop the well’s flow. It had previously planned to perform the operation on Sunday but was delayed. It was hoped that by pumping heavy drilling mud into the well the pressure of the oil and gas flowing out could be overcome and the well could then be sealed. If the top kill doesn’t work, BP said it might attempt its previously discussed “junk shot,” which would entail shooting a variety of materials into the well’s blowout preventer in the hope of stopping the oil flow.

BP COO Doug Suttles said measurements of pressure at the top and bottom of the blowout preventer are encouraging for the success of a top kill. He said the junk shot was put off as its unsuccessful use could have precluded the later attempt of a top kill; however, if the top kill does not work, a junk shot could still be attempted.

The previously discussed “top hat” oil containment and collection device was still waiting in the wings on the sea floor near the leak.

News of the successful siphoning of some of the leak’s flow came amid reports that numerous miles-long “plumes” of oil had been discovered by scientists well below the sea’s surface. Last Monday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the reports were overblown and inaccurate in some cases as data collected by independent researchers had yet to be analyzed.

“No definitive conclusions have been reached by this research team about the composition of the undersea layers they discovered,” NOAA said. “The hypothesis that the layers consist of oil remains to be verified.”

Some have suggested that the subsea use of oil dispersants contributed to the plumes’ formation. However, this is unclear, NOAA said.

“Although [the scientists’] initial interest in searching for subsurface oil was motivated by consideration of subsurface use of dispersants, there is no information to connect use of dispersants to the subsurface layers they discovered,” NOAA said.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) charged BP with “burying its head in the sand” on the amount of oil that had been leaked into the GOM. “These huge plumes of oil are like hidden mushroom clouds that indicate a larger spill than originally thought and portend more dangerous long-term fallout for the Gulf of Mexico’s wildlife and economy,” Markey said.

Meanwhile, a recent segment by “60 Minutes” on the spill “skewered [BP] for questionable decision making as they rushed to finish the well,” according to analysts at Tudor, Pickering Holt & Co. Securities Inc. (TPH), who commented on the program in a note.

The program also reported that a whistle blower had raised concerns about incomplete and inaccurate engineering documents found aboard BP’s majority-owned Atlantis platform 150 miles south of New Orleans in the GOM. “Documentation not available out on the platform (in car lingo — owners manual incomplete),” as TPH analysts described it.

BP said it had thoroughly investigated the claims made in the “60 Minutes” segment when they were first made by a former contract worker in 2009 and found them to be without substance. “The investigation found that the operators on the platform had full access to the accurate, up-to-date drawings (topsides, hull and subsea) necessary to operate the platform safely,” the company said.

Hayward told BP employees last Tuesday in an e-mail that the company has enough cash to cope with spill-related costs. “I know that many of you have questions about how this incident will impact BP, your jobs, pensions, and our future plans,” Hayward wrote. But he said, “The strength of the BP balance sheet allows us to take on this responsibility.”

The CEO of Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which owns a 25% stake in the crippled Macondo well, also said last week its balance sheet will carry it through spill-related costs. In an interview with Bloomberg, CEO Jim Hackett pointed to Anadarko’s “tremendous liquidity,” which included more than $3 billion in cash at the end of 1Q2010 and an undrawn credit facility of more than $1 billion (see NGI, May 10).

Anadarko said it has about $177.5 million in insurance coverage on the Macondo well and deductibles of about $15 million. “I think all of those really make people feel comfortable that there’s the financial wherewithal to handle this issue,” Hackett told Bloomberg. But he said he didn’t know how much his company would end up paying.

©Copyright 2010Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.