Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

'4.4m barrels of oil' in Gulf spill

An underwater video clip, one of which scientists used to calculate the size of the Deepwater Horizon leak

BP's stricken well in the Gulf of Mexico spilled an estimated 4.4 million barrels of oil into the ocean before it was capped, the first objective scientific study of the disaster has concluded.

The quantity of oil which poured from the Deepwater Horizon well for three months was enough to fill 700,000 cubic metres.

The gushing well head was capped in July, but the full impact of the world's worst oil catastrophe is still being unravelled.

Researchers reported the findings of an independent assessment of the size of the spill in the journal Science.

By analysing underwater video images of the leak, they calculated that up to 58,000 barrels of oil - possibly more - escaped daily until the first effective cap was installed on July 15. One barrel of oil is equivalent to 42 gallons.

BP has been strongly criticised over the disaster, which occurred on April 20 when escaping methane triggered an explosion that ripped through the oil platform killing 11 workers and injuring 17 others.

The study divides the flow rate into two periods. The first, from April 22 to June 3, saw 56,000 barrels of oil a day gush from a jagged break in the riser, the pipe extending from the drilling platform to the sea floor.

After June 3, the riser was cut and oil temporarily poured into the ocean unimpeded. At this stage the flow rate of the leak rose to around 68,000 barrels.

The authors subtracted 804,877 barrels collected by BP at the site to come up with their final figure of 4.4 million barrels.

Scientists initially greatly underestimated the extent of the leak and the figures were later revised upwards, but objective data was lacking.

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