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We Did the Math: BP Oil Spill Is Now Worse Than the Exxon Valdez

By Andrew Moseman
May 27, 2010 8:05 PMNov 19, 2019 11:45 PM


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The U.S. Coast Guard is saying today that the "top kill" procedure looks like it's having success at stemming BP's oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. We hope they're right. In the meantime, you can now say that the BP oil spill is the worst in our nation's history, eclipsing the 11 million gallons spill by the Exxon Valdez. In a teleconference this morning, U.S. Geological Survey head Marcia McNutt released the new estimates by her scientists trying to gauge the flow rate of the oil leak. There were two teams working—one watching the surface and the other monitoring the video feed from the leak site. The low estimate is now 12,000 barrels per day, but it may be more like 19,000 to 25,000, the teams found. (The previous estimate, repeated throughout the first month of the spill, was just 5,000 barrels per day). McNutt wouldn't say explicitly if the BP spill is now the worst the United States has ever seen, but the numbers speak for themselves. If we do a very conservative calculation and say that 12,000 barrels leaked every day between April 22, when the Deepwater Horizon rig sank, and May 17, when BP installed the siphon to catch some of the oil, you get approximately 13.1 million gallons of oil released into the Gulf's waters (there are 42 gallons in a barrel of oil). And keep in mind that's just the conservative estimate; it's probably a lot worse than that. The AP did a similar calculation, assuming that either 12,000 or 25,000 barrels leaked every day from the rig's explosion on April 20 to the present moment, and came up with even more dire figures.

The new government estimate means at least 19 million gallons and maybe as much as 39 million gallons have leaked in the five weeks since an oil rig exploded and sank [AP].

Recent posts on the BP oil spill: 80beats: "Top Kill" Operation Is Under Way in Attempt to Stop Gulf Oil Leak

80beats: BP To Switch Dispersants; Will Kevin Costner Save Us All?

80beats: Scientists Say Gulf Spill Is Way Worse Than Estimated. How’d We Get It So Wrong?

80beats: Testimony Highlights 3 Major Failures That Caused Gulf Spill

80beats: 5 Offshore Oil Hotspots Beyond the Gulf That Could Boom—Or Go Boom

Image: NOAA (the Exxon Valdez)

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