Today the government announced that the spill rate in the Gulf of Mexico may actually be 60,000 barrels (2.5 million gallons) a day. This is the same figure that BP CEO Tony Hayward told Congress was the “worst case” figure for the spill, which is tapped into a field he estimates holds 50 million gallons of oil. It also announced that BP will set aside about $20,000,000,000 U.S. to compensate economic victims of the spill, in a trust to be administered by a third party.
It’s been not quite two months since the spill began, and a lot has happened. Many people are calling for more action, but the picture of what’s happened so far is obscure and often hard to figure out. Here’s the best timeline I could put together of major oil leak events, including all of the official spill estimates (in red) and outside estimates (in green). This does not include wildlife news, which is being covered quite ably, daily, elsewhere. If I’ve missed a big event, please let me know, and I’m happy to add to this list and update as needed.
TIMELINE OF GULF OIL SPILL EVENTS:
April 20, 2010: The Deepwater Horizon explosion happens in the late evening. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry estimates, off the cuff, that 13,000 gallons of oil an hour (7,500 barrels a day) might be burning off the rig.
April 22: Deepwater Horizon rig sinks.
• BP begins operations with Transocean to activate blow-out preventer underwater.
April 24: Search for 11 missing and presumed dead Deepwater Horizon rig workers is called off.
April 25: BP sends submersible robots to the base of the well, and reports that 1,000 barrels of oil are leaking into the Gulf every day.
April 27: Skytruth publishes photos and analysis estimating that at least 5,000 barrels per day (bpd), and probably more, are leaking in the Gulf.
• Department of Homeland Security and Department of the Interior announce a full, joint investigation into Deepwater Horizon incident; initial investigations began April 21.
April 28: The government increases its estimate of the spill to 5,000 bbd, based in part on a BP report showing 5,700 bbd as the “best guess” estimate. That same memo listed 14,500 bpd as the “high estimate.”
April 29: Louisiana opens special early opening of shrimp season in two coastal zones (1 and 2) to encourage fishing before oil spill reaches coastal waters. Zone 1 closes again, partially, by 6 the next morning due to encroaching oil; the rest will close May 4, unrelated to the oil spill.
April 30: Louisiana announces closures of fishing areas and oyster harvesting beds “as a precautionary response to the oil spill.”
May 2: BP begins drilling first relief well using Transocean rig Development Driller III.
• NOAA halts fishing in federal waters affected by the leak. Initial closure: 6,817 square miles, with daily updates/expansions expected. By June 7, 78,264 square miles of water will be closed due to the leak.
May 6: BP attempts to lower a 4-story tall, 100-ton containment dome to the sea floor.
May 8: BP announces failure of containment dome due to ice clogging the structure.
May 14: Scientists and environmentalists say amount of leak could be four to five times what government and BP have so far estimated.
May 18: Video is shot and released of the leak underwater.
May 19: Purdue Professor Steve Werely testifies before Congress that 70,000 to 100,000 bpd of oil and gas could be leaking from the broken riser.
May 21: BP posts live video of leak to its website.
May 22: Obama announces formation of National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.
May 24: Kevin Costner’s oil-cleaning centrifuges begin testing at BP.
May 25-26: BP begins Top Kill procedure to stop leak.
May 27: Head of Minerals Management Service, Elizabeth Birnbaum, resigns/is asked to resign/is fired by… someone.
• Obama holds press briefing, announces 6 month moratorium on new deepwater drilling in the Gulf.
May 28: Government report shows estimates are now between 12,000 and 19,000 or possibly even 25,000 bpd.
May 29: BP announces failure of Top Kill procedure.
May 31: Government panel estimates a 20 percent increase in flow of oil from riser once it is cut, lasting until the containment cap starts working.
June 2: BP tries to cut riser with a diamond-dust embedded wire saw in preparation for containment cap. The saw gets stuck.
June 6: Containment cap estimated to be gathering 10,000 barrels a day.
June 10: Government panel estimates oil flow before containment cut was 25,000 to 30,000 bpd.
June 15: President Obama gives Oval Office address, announces he’ll tell BP to establish an escrow account for economic relief in the Gulf area.
June 16: Government panel says leak may be gushing 35,000 to 60,000 bpd (1,470,000 to 2,52,000 gallons) into the Gulf daily.
• BP announces it will set aside $20 billion U.S. to compensate those who’ve lost income due to the oil spill and will suspend paying dividends on its stocks for the rest of the year.
• Second containment vessel, the Q4000, is placed to begin burning about 5,000 barrels of oil and gas a day.
June 23: Underwater robot bumps containment cap, requiring the cap to be removed.
Containment cap is replaced.
July 10: BP removes containment cap to install new, better containment cap that will seal more tightly to the well.
July 13: Seismic tests are run around the well site.
July 14: BP announces a delay in closing the new containment cap because — at the advice of the government — it will be running tests to see whether there’s leakage at the sea floor.
There’s more. There’s always going to be more. BP CEO Tony Hayward testifies tomorrow before a Congressional subcommittee. The containment cap still has open vents to be closed that will change the rate of oil capture per day. I’ll add updates here as I come across them or as you remind me below, and keep the last updated date current at the bottom.
Last update: June 30, 2010.