BP Agrees: Oil Spill Much Larger Than Reported

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This image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite on May 10, 2010 and released by NASA on May 17, shows the oil spill which has remained in the Gulf of Mexico not far from the Mississippi Delta

REUTERS / NASA / MODIS Rapid Response Team / Handout

Late last night, BP Managing Director Bo Dudley sat down with CNN’s Larry King, revealing a plan to pump fluids into its 5,000-foot-deep oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico – a plan that could have the leak sealed within a couple days.

“If that option doesn’t work, we’ve got a second and a third option we’ll do after that,” Dudley told King.

It’s a glimmer of hope in a dire situation. But it’s also not the first proposed solution to the leak, and it would not be the first to fail.

Meanwhile, slightly buried beneath this morning’s headlines highlighting Dudley’s proposed fix, is the fact that BP acknowledged Thursday afternoon the leak is far larger than they originally estimated.

Company spokesman Mark Proegler said that the siphon lowered by BP to suck up some of the expelled oil is currently collecting about 5,000 barrels a day. Coincidentally, that’s the same quantity used by BP in describing the rate of the leak. So given that some oil is still escaping, the leak is obviously larger than originally estimated.

Just how much larger has become a heated point of debate among scholars.

Steve Wereley, a professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, has studied video footage and put the spill anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 barrels a day. That’s roughly four to 20 times BP’s estimate. While Wereley and BP may disagree on the size of the leak, surely they would all agree on the urgency to seal the gusher, no matter what the flow rate.

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