NEW ORLEANS — The focus of a trial over BP's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has shifted to the multibillion-dollar question of how much crude gushed from BP's blown-out well.
Lawyers for BP and the federal government began Monday presenting U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier with conflicting scientific theories to explain their different estimates.
Government experts estimate 4.2 million barrels, or 176 million gallons, spilled into the Gulf. BP has urged Barbier to use an estimate of 2.45 million barrels, or nearly 103 million gallons, in calculating any Clean Water Act penalties.
Justice Department attorney Steven O'Rourke accused BP of "cherry-picking" data and ignoring information collected during its spill response.
BP lawyer Mike Brock said its experts based their calculations on "known data" using methods that meet industry standards.
Barbier ultimately could decide how much more money BP owes for its role in the disaster, a decision likely tied to the scope of the spill.
Government experts estimate that oil started flowing out of the Macondo well at a rate of roughly 62,000 barrels per day but dropped to a rate of 53,000 barrels per day when BP used a capping stack equipped with a pressure gauge to seal the well. O'Rourke said four government experts using four different methods reached similar estimates.
The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was working at BP's Macondo well off the Louisiana coast when the blowout triggered an explosion that killed 11 workers.