Administration officials announced late today that the Deepwater Horizon well is most likely gushing 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day and possibly even more. The previous best estimates fell in the range of 20,000 to 40,000 barrels per day.
The boosted estimate comes from a group of federal and independent scientists convened Monday by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt. It is largely based on types of data previously employed—videos taken by remotely operated vehicles, acoustic probes of the discharge, and the volumes collected by the top hat. But for the first time, it includes pressure measurements, taken within the top hat using sensors installed over the weekend. The estimate was also improved because, after the riser pipe with its multiple leaks was cut off, scientists have only one flow to estimate. The federal officials emphasized in their statement that the Administration has directed BP to beef up its containment efforts; under the new plan, BP will be able to scavenge up to 53,000 barrels per day by the end of June and up to 80,000 barrels per day by mid July.