The blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico gushed 12 times faster than the government and BP estimated in the early weeks of the crisis and has spilled a whopping 4.9 million barrels, or 205.8 million gallons, according to a more detailed analysis announced late on Monday.
BP’s Macondo well spewed 62,000 barrels of oil a day initially, and as the reservoir gradually depleted itself, the flow eased to 53,000 barrels a day until the well was finally capped and sealed July 15, according to scientists in the Flow Rate Technical Group, supervised by the US Geological Survey and the US Department of Energy.
The new numbers once again have nudged upward the statistical scale of the disaster.
If correct — the government allows for a margin of error of 10 per cent — the flow rate would make this spill significantly larger than the Ixtoc I blowout of 1979, which polluted the southern Gulf of Mexico with 138 million gallons over the course of 10 months.
That had been the largest unintentional oil spill in history, surpassed only by the intentional spills in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War.
The new flow rate figures came as engineers made final preparations for a “static kill” operation that might plug the well permanently even before a relief well intercepts Macondo at its base.
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