BP's success at drawing oil from a leaking pipe has proved that official estimates of the size of the Gulf of Mexico spill have been too low.
LOS ANGELES — BP’s success at drawing oil from a leaking pipe has proved that official estimates of the size of the Gulf of Mexico spill have been too low.
The company effectively admitted as much Thursday when it said a tube inserted into the leaking pipe connected to its blown-out well is collecting up to 210,000 gallons — 5,000 barrels — of oil and 15 million cubic feet of gas a day, even as a live video feed shows large volumes continuing to billow into Gulf waters.
“There’s still oil leaking there. We’re not saying otherwise,” BP spokesman Mark Proegler said Thursday.
After the company released a video of the gushing leak last week, independent scientists estimated the amount of oil spewing into the gulf could be 14 times greater than the 210,000 gallon-a-day figure officials have used to describe the month-old spill.
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“From the beginning we’ve been working with the (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the Coast Guard, and they are the source, using visual observations, of the size of the leak,” Proegler said. “We have asserted that there’s no way of accurately measuring from the end of the flow pipe. Others are taking issue with that and that’s fine.”
NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco on Thursday said 210,000 gallons, “was always understood to be a very rough estimate.”
Since the company placed a suction tube into the broken riser pipe Sunday, it has gradually drawn off greater amounts of oil and gas and sent it 5,000 feet to the oil-processing ship Enterprise.
At least 6 million gallons of oil have gushed into the Gulf — more than half the amount the Exxon Valdez tanker spilled in Alaska in 1989 — since the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded April 20. Eleven workers were killed.
BP has been criticized for not being more forthcoming about the results of testing and monitoring. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, on Thursday sent BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward a letter demanding the company make publicly available all data and information it has collected on the disaster.
The EPA also gave BP until Monday to begin using a less toxic oil dispersant to break up the growing Gulf slick.
Nearly 700,000 gallons of dispersant, Corexit 9500A and Corexit 9527A, have been applied. Most has been released on the water’s surface to break oil into droplets that will more quickly decompose with the help of oil-eating bacteria. But EPA and the Coast Guard have allowed the unprecedented release of dispersants near the damaged wellhead, nearly a mile deep.
A spokesman for Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said BP on Thursday ordered 60,000 gallons of Dispersit, a less toxic dispersant preferred by many environmentalists.
Material from The Associated Press and The Washington Post is included in this report.