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Oil spill: Much more oil gushing from well than thought

Last Updated: Friday, June 11, 2010 - 09:06

Houston: Researchers studying the flow of oil from the blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico said on Thursday that up to twice the amount of oil previously thought may have been spewing into the sea since an oil rig exploded nearly two months ago.

The new figures could mean anywhere from 42 million to more than 100 million gallons of oil have already fouled the fragile waters, affecting people who live, work and play along the coast from Louisiana to Florida — and perhaps beyond.

It is the third — and perhaps not last — time the federal government has had to increase its estimate of how much oil is gushing. Trying to clarify what has been a contentious and confusing issue, federal officials on Thursday gave a wide variety of estimates.

All of the new spill rate estimates are worse than earlier ones '€” and far more costly for BP, which has seen its stock sink since the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers and triggered the spill.

Most of Thursday`s estimates had more oil flowing in an hour than what officials once said was spilling in an entire day.

The spill — before June 3 when a riser was cut and then a cap put on it — was flowing at daily rate that could possibly have been as high as 2.1 million gallons, twice the highest number the federal government had been saying, according to U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt, who is coordinating estimates. But she said possibly more credible numbers are a bit lower.

The estimates are not near complete yet and different scientific teams have come up with different numbers. A new team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute came in with higher estimates than all the others using multibeam sonar.

The Woods Hole estimate ranged from 1 million gallons a day to 2.1 million gallons. And if the high end of the Woods Hole estimate is true, that means nearly 107 million gallons have spilled since the rig explosion.

Even using other numbers that federal officials and scientists call a more reasonable range would have about 63 million gallons spilling since April 20.

If those 63 million gallons of oil were put in gallon milk jugs, they would line up side by side for nearly 5,500 miles. That`s the distance from the spill to London, where BP is headquartered, and then continuing on to Rome.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, June 11, 2010 - 09:06

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