How Much Difference Do 2,000 Barrels a Day Make for Containment Efforts?

BY Chris Amico  May 17, 2010 at 6:03 PM EST

With BP reporting some success in siphoning off oil leaking out of the Deepwater Horizon well, we’ve updated our Gulf Leak Meter to reflect a slightly slowed rate of leakage.

Updated May 18, 4:30 p.m. | BP now says it is siphoning 2,000 barrels (84,000 gallons) of oil per day out of the leaking well. We’ve updated our formula again, following the same pattern as below. A company spokesman, Toby Odone, couldn’t say when the rate changed from 1,000 to 2,000 barrels per day, or if that rate would change in the coming days.

“We’re measuring over 1,000 barrels [42,000 gallons] a day that we’re now capturing on the surface on the drillship Enterprise,” BP’s chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, told NBC’s “Today.” “We can actually get 5,000 barrels a day up that pipe if we can capture all of it and keep the water out.”

Crude is still coming out of the ground and flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, and we still don’t know the total amount flowing. Estimates range from the official figure of 210,000 gallons per day (or 5,000 barrels) to as much as 4.2 million gallons per day. So far, BP has refused to let scientists measure the leak at its source, saying it is concentrating on containing the leak and capping the well.

To account for the ongoing uncertainty, we adjusted the leak meter’s formula to account for the oil now being captured. Our meter now measures leak rates during two time periods: from April 22, when the Deepwater Horizon sank and the well ruptured; and after 7 a.m. ET May 16, when BP’s Suttles announced the start of oil siphoning. The total of those two time periods now shows in the leak meter.

How much difference do 42,000 gallons a day make? It depends on how much oil is really leaking. And for now, that still remains unknown.

You can watch the entire interview with Suttles:

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