Apparently, in their application, BP said they had "proven equipment" for dealing with a deepwater spill much bigger than the one currently spewing in the Gulf of Mexico.

"This is an unprecedented situation, not just for BP but for the oil industry," BP communications chief Andrew Gowers said at one point, "and we are inventing new technologies on the go to tackle this."

BP global CEO Tony Hayward has deemed some of the failures "real-time learning."

The exploration plan for the now-blown-out well, filed with MMS, says the company was capable of handling a "worst-case scenario," which it describes as a leak of 162,000 barrels per day from an uncontrolled blowout. That is 6.8 million gallons and 32 times more than the original estimate of 5,000 barrels of crude per day. That estimate has since risen to 12,000 to 25,000 barrels a day.

Asked in a Senate hearing to reconcile the "proven equipment" statement with the trial and error taking place in the Gulf, the British firm's top U.S. executive, Lamar McKay, struggled to come up with an answer.

"Obviously, when that document you're quoting was turned in, we weren't expecting this," he said.

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03 June 2010