Containment Cap Collects Slightly More Oil; BP Looks to Boost Capacity

BY Lea Winerman  June 9, 2010 at 12:00 PM EST

BP Gulf Cube
Click image for larger view.

BP’s oil containment system captured about 15,000 barrels (630,000 gallons) of oil Tuesday, up slightly from the 14,800 barrels collected Monday, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said in a news briefing Wednesday. We’ve again updated our oil ticker to reflect the change.

That means that the company is currently close to reaching its processing limit — the shuttle tanker in the Gulf of Mexico right now can process about 15,000 barrels of oil per day. BP is aiming to bring in new ships and equipment to bring that capacity up to 28,000 barrels (1.17 million gallons) per day by next week, Allen said.

It’s still unknown, however, how much total oil is spilling from the pipe. Asked by a reporter whether the recovery effort had “turned the corner” and was collecting more oil than was leaking, Allen said “I certainly hope so” but added “I’m not going to declare victory on anything until we have absolute numbers [for the oil flow rate].”

A government panel convened to estimate the flow rate is meeting again this week to come up with new estimates based on new video from BP. Allen and other officials have quoted that team’s previous estimate — the last official estimate of the oil flow — as between 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day. But some outside scientists on the panel have said that that range actually represents only the lower boundary, not the upper limit, of the potential flow.

Meanwhile, other efforts continue to clean up the oil and plug the well. BP released the graphic above on Tuesday, which diagrams the many activities in the area, including digging the relief wells intended to finally stop the flow, skimming oil from the surface and spraying dispersants underwater.