One of the government's scientific teams tasked with estimating the rate at which oil is flowing out of the burst well have announced a new figure: Between 20,000 and 40,000 barrels a day are spewing out, ac
Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), yesterday repeated her plea for researchers to be cautious in collecting and interpreting evidence of underwater plumes of oil from the Deepwater Horizon well.
A federally convened expert team has estimated that oil has been gushing from the wrecked Gulf of Mexico well two to four times faster than first guessed. At 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day, the spill has so far totaled between roughly 400,000 and 650,000 barrels.
The magnitude of the catastrophe will depend on the oil's fate: the amount of oil released, how the oil is transformed chemically and physically, and how far and wide it travels. To date, scientists are far from answering any of these questions.
Controversy continues to swirl over the size of the Gulf oil spill, with one estimate suggesting as much as 100,000 barrels of oil could be spewing into the water daily. Modest amounts of oil have begun washing over coastal marshes.
So far the government and BP have conducted several tests a mile deep in the ocean to deploy an oil spill cleanup technique that's never been attempted before: dispersing the oil with a chemical injected into the water at depth.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster is no Exxon Valdez, says marine chemist Edward Overton. Instead of a "black tide" of crude oil flushing into marshlands, Overton is looking for mostly "tarballs" to invade the Gulf Coast's beaches and marshes.
Yesterday, in an effort to reduce the amount of oil from the Deepwater Horizon blowout on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, crews began igniting parts of the spill in discrete patches. This technique has been used in a few instances in the past.