The blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico gushed even more oil than the worst case scenario envisioned, a whopping total of 4.9 million barrels, or 205.8 million gallons, according to a new analysis by government scientists charged with estimating the flow rate.Washington Post
BP's Macondo well spewed 62,000 barrels of oil a day initially, and as the reservoir gradually depleted itself the flow eased to 53,000 barrels a day until the well was finally capped and sealed on July 15, according to scientists in the Flow Rate Technical Group, supervised by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Energy.
The new numbers, released by the government Monday night, once again nudge upward the scale of the disaster. If correct -- the government allows for a margin of error of 10 percent -- the flow rate would make this spill significantly larger than the Ixtoc I blowout of 1979, which polluted the southern Gulf of Mexico with 138 million gallons over the coursre of 10 months. That had been the record for the largest unintentional oil spill in the planet's history, surpassed only by the intentional spills of the Persian Gulf War.
The flow rate estimates have been a major source of confusion and controversy since the April 20 explosion on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. Initially the government and BP pegged the leak at 1,000 barrels a day, then 5,000 barrels a day. The flow rate team, assembled in May, examined the surface slick and video from the sea floor, and soon upped the estimate to 12,000 to 25,000 barrels a day. But then came more high-definition video, and pressure readings analyzed by physicists, and by early June the government declared the flow to be 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day.