Gulf oil spill: Flow was underestimated

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BP said Thursday that it is collecting 5,000 barrels of oil a day from one of the leaking pipes in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a statement that proves the spill is larger than the publicly released government and company estimate. The total flow had consistently been pegged at 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) a day.

But since oil continues to pour into the ocean despite the capture of that same amount by a tube inserted into the leaking riser pipe, those estimates are clearly too low. “Now we’re reporting up to 5,000 barrels of oil and up to 15 million cubic feet of gas a day” are being sucked from the pipe into a ship, said BP spokesman Mark Proegler. “There’s still oil leaking there. We’re not saying otherwise.”


After BP released a video of the gushing leak last week, independent scientists estimated the flow of oil could be 14 times greater than the 5,000 barrel figure. “From the beginning we’ve been working with the [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] and the Coast Guard, and they are the source, using visual observations, of the size of the leak,” Proegler said. “We have asserted that there’s no way of accurately measuring from the end of the flow pipe. Others are taking issue with that, and that’s fine.”

Pressured by members of Congress, BP on Thursday also released a live video feed of the leak. ‘What you see are real-time images of a real world disaster unfolding 5,000 feet below the surface of the gulf,’ said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) at a Capitol Hill news conference announcing ‘spillcam,’ the live feed now available on both House and Senate websites.

--Bettina Boxall and Richard Simon