Gulf spill estimates revised up — again

Let’s review the bidding. Since the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20, estimates of the volume of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico have gone steadily up. They began at zero, then 1000 barrels a day, then 5000 barrels (210,000 gallons), a number that has been repeated over and over in media reports. But that number may be way too low. By May 1, SkyTruth was reporting, based on analysis of aerial pictures of the oil slick, an estimate of more than 26,000 barrels per day. Now, based on a brief video clip released by BP on Wednesday, experts are estimating that the flow rate may be 50,000, 70,000, or even 100,000 barrels per day — that’s 2 to 4 million gallons every day for the last three weeks, or an Exxon Valdez worth every 2.5 to 5 days. BP doesn’t exactly contest those figures. The company insists that there is no accurate way to estimate the volumes. But it reportedly confessed in a Congressional briefing that the flow either could already be or could grow to (subsequent statements made it unclear which was intended) 60,000 barrels a day.

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Reader Comments

2 Replies to “Gulf spill estimates revised up — again”

  1. So far, one of the Obama Administration’s responses to the spill is to allow more off-shore drilling, but to give the states a veto over drilling within 75 miles of their coasts. In effect, pushing off-shore into deeper, more problematic waters. A West Wing solution to a technical and environmental problem. Perhaps another version of what BP is trying to do (with tacit government approval?) with the dispersants, ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

    And while everyone’s watching oil come through the front door down in the Gulf, the Obama folks are planning to let more and more oil in through the tarred back door up north.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/19/business/energy-environment/19sands.html?hpw

  2. Scientists Fault Lack of Studies in Response to Gulf Oil Spill

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/20/science/earth/20noaa.html?hp

    “Scientists have long theorized that a shallow spill and a spill in the deep ocean — this one is a mile down — would behave quite differently. A 2003 report by the National Research Council predicted that the oil could break into fine droplets, forming plumes of oil mixed with water that would not quickly rise to the surface. “

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About Holly

Holly Doremus

Holly Doremus is the James H. House and Hiram H. Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation at UC Berkeley. Doremus brings a strong background in life sciences and a comm…

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