As Obama scolds BP, debate brews over how much oil is leaking
Government and BP estimates of the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico are too low, say scientists. Some equate the flow to one Exxon Valdez spill every five days.
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Part of the challenge – and the frustration – in coping with the blow-out lies in determining just how much oil the submarine gusher is releasing.Skip to next paragraph
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Official estimates from the federal government and BP, which owns the oil lease the Deepwater Horizon was working, place the leak rate at some 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) of oil a day. That alone is has been enough to trigger a regional emergency response.
But independent experts say the leak rate is likely to be much larger.
And in a report Friday morning, National Public Radio cited estimates from three independent scientists who say at least 50,000 barrels of oil a day are flowing into the Gulf waters. That would imply that the Deepwater Horizon disaster could be releasing at least the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez spill every five days.
In an email exchange, Dr. Crone, one of the three scientists NPR contacted, noted that his approach honed on estimating the material spewing from deep-sea hydrothermal vents.
He says that videos of the blow-out taken by robotic cameras at the well head lack the detail needed for more precise estimates of the flow. Moreover, the material emerging from the well head is a mix of methane, mud, and oil.
Taking all that into account, he puts the flow rate at roughly 50,000 barrels of oil a day.
"My numbers should be viewed with caution," he warns, but adds, "the flows are almost certainly higher than 5,000 barrels a day."
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