Oil Spill Estimates: Always Changing, Always Bad

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How much oil is pumping into the Gulf? It’s been 53 days since the spill started, and we still don’t really know.

BP may be mounting a damage control campaign, but scientist estimates keep bumping up the scope of that task. New estimates are showing that the amount of oil spilling from the undersea gusher could be as much as twice the amount originally thought, which means some 100 million gallons may have entered the ocean.

U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt told the Associated Press that the daily rate may be 2.1 million gallons. That does not take into account the cutting of the oil well’s riser pipe last week, which may have creating 20 percent boost in the flow. Cutting the riser was a necessary step in installing a cap to try and siphon off some of the flow — that cap has collected more than 3 million gallons.

Estimates are incomplete, however, and other teams of scientists have even higher figures. For example, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute say the total could be as much as 25,000 barrels a day. Even more estimates are expected, based on high-definition video coming from the site of the gusher.

“Each of the methodologies that the scientific teams is using has its advantages and shortcomings, which is why it is so important that we take several scientific approaches to solving this problem, that the teams continue working to refine their analyses and assessments, and that those many data points inform the updated best estimate that we are developing,” said McNutt in a statement.