Scientists Again Raise Government Estimate of Oil Leak Rate

BY newsdesk  June 15, 2010 at 5:58 PM EDT

Updated 7:47pm ET

Details are still emerging about the scope of the new oil flow estimate, and it is not yet completely clear whether that estimate apples only to the flow rate after the riser was cut on June 3, or whether it applies to the flow rate before June 3 as well. We are continuing to report on this and will update our Gulf oil leak meter as new information becomes available.

Posted 6:30pm ET

Scientists on a government panel significantly increased their estimate Tuesday of how much oil is gushing out of BP’s blown-out well each day.

The team said that the well is leaking between 1.47 million and 2.52 million gallons a day — an increase over earlier estimates putting the maximum rate at 2.1 million gallons daily:

Working together, U.S. government and independent scientists estimate that the most likely flow rate of oil today is between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day. The improved estimate is based on more and better data that is now available and that helps increase the scientific confidence in the accuracy of the estimate.

We are working on updating our Gulf Leak Meter widgets to properly reflect the new estimates.

“This estimate brings together several scientific methodologies and the latest information from the sea floor, and represents a significant step forward in our effort to put a number on the oil that is escaping from BP’s well,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement. “As we continue to collect additional data and refine these estimates, it is important to realize that the numbers can change. In particular, the upper number is less certain – which is exactly why we have been planning for the worst case scenario at every stage and why we are continuing to focus on responding to the upper end of the estimate, plus additional contingencies.”

The new estimates are based on a combination of data, including an analysis of high-resolution video taken by underwater robots, pressure meters, sonar and measurements of oil collected by the containment device on top of the well, The Associated Press reported.

It is the fourth time the federal government has increased its estimate of how much oil is gushing. At one point, the government estimated that only 42,000 gallons a day were spilling. It later upped that to 210,000 gallons.