BP Spill Estimate Grows—Again


An independent estimate concluded this week that the BP spill dumped 4.4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The new study, published this week in Science, is the first peer-reviewed analysis of the total amount spilled over the nearly three months of the disaster. The scientists used high-resolution video of the leaking well to estimate the rate of the spill.

The estimate is slightly higher than the estimate from the government’s flow rate team, which concluded in August that 4.1 million barrels were spilled into the Gulf and another 800,0000 barrels was removed from the water.

The official government estimates of both the size of the spill and where the oil went have been the subject of some controversy, as much of the supporting documentation has not been made public and the estimates were not peer-reviewed. But since the new estimate of the spill size is fairly close to the government’s, it should lend some credence to the accounts from the federal government. 

Still, the latest estimate is 300,000 barrels—or 12.6 million gallons—higher than the previous. That’s a whole Exxon Valdez spill right there, bringing the Gulf spill to more than 17 times the size of the Alaska spill that previously ranked as the worst in US history.

Fact:

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.