The first independent study on the BP oil spill flow rate has been published. According to the scientists who conducted it, 4.4 million barrels, or 185 million gallons, of crude was deposited into the Gulf of Mexico during the disaster. The study was published online Thursday in the journal Science.
To measure the flow, two scientists from Columbia University used high-resolution video from underwater cameras to track the motion of turbulent billows and flows in the water. The images were then broken down into pixels. According to a USA Today report, the scientists’ calculations are based on just a few short clips of high-resolution video because that is all BP has released so far. The true figures could still be higher.
“This is not the last word. It is the first peer-reviewed word. But we think it’s a really good ballpark,” one of the researchers told USA Today.
Though higher, the new number isn’t that far off from government estimates of 172 million gallons. But many people were suspicious of that figure, mainly because prior estimates were revised so many times. Federal officials first used BP’s estimate that 42,000 gallons a day were leaking, and then upped it to 210,000 gallons a day. In mid-June, they said the well could be leaking as much as 2.4 million gallons a day.
The BP oils spill began with an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 men on April 20. All attempts to staunch the gusher failed, until a cap was successfully deployed over the well on July 15. The well wasn’t declared officially dead until this past Sunday.
The BP oil spill now ranks as the worst oil disaster in US history.