BP spill now biggest ever in U.S., flow rate estimate grows

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May 28, 2010 7:16 AM EST

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from BP's Macondo in the Gulf of Mexico well is now the largest in the U.S. history, surpassing 1989's ExxonValdez tanker spill in Alaska in 1989, based on calculations from data released by the head of the U.S. Geological Survey on Thursday. 

Preliminary results of oil flow estimates by scientists studying the spill have been calculated to be between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels per day, Marcia McNutt, the director of the USGS said on Thursday in a conference call.

The data was measured by the Flow Rate Technical Team, which included scientific experts from various government agencies and academia.

Official estimates are that the Exxon Valdez spill leaked nearly 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound when it hit a reef.

In the Gulf Coast disaster, an International Business Times calculation estimates that between 17 million and 27 million gallons of oil have already been released into the Gulf of Mexico, assuming a constant flow of oil during the 34 days since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank on April 22, to Tuesday, May 25, the day before the latest 'top kill' attempt to plug the well.

BP's most recent of several attempts to stop the flow of oil stabilized the flow of oil by Wednesday morning, but does not mean that the so-called "top kill" operation can be yet called a success, according Lt. Commander Tony Russel, an aide to Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the Associated Press reported.

The official flow rate has now undergone three revisions. The first estimate on April 25, three days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank was reported by the U.S. Coast Guard to be 1,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Three days later, the Guard upgraded the figure to 5,000 barrels per day. That would be about 6 million gallons of oil released into the Gulf so far.

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