BP Oil Spill Day 25: How Much Is Really Leaking?

Scientists say the BP spill could be four or five times the estimate.

ByABC News via logo
May 13, 2010, 6:35 PM

May 14, 2010— -- Following the rig explosion on April 20 BP said about 1,000 barrels of oil a day were leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, an estimate the Coast Guard later raised to 5,000 barrels a day. Now, on day 25, there's speculation that the gusher could be as much as five times as big.

This week British Petroleum released underwater footage of the well pipe and a mixture of gas and oil were seen rushing into the water. By slowing down the video and studying the speed of a single particle, some experts believe the flow could be much larger.

Oceanographer Ian MacDonald, from Florida State University, told the New York Times that he his analysis showed that the daily spillage could "easily be four or five times" the government's estimate -- or 25,000 barrels.

BP's chief operating officer Doug Suttles pushed back against that claim on "GMA" today, saying it is "almost impossible to get a precise number."

"Ourselves and people from NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) and others believe that something around 5,000 [barrels]…is the best estimate. And we look at that, not only do we look at what is occurring on the sea bed, we look at what is occurring on the surface. And actually we know that on the good weather days when we can apply all of our tools we can actually shrink the size of this spill," Suttles said. "And those are the ways we actually think that is probably a reasonable number but we know it is highly uncertain."

If 25,000 barrels a day are rushing into the Gulf, it would the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez spill every 10 days, although the size of the oil slick has not grown noticeably in the last 10 days.

Hans Graber, director of the University of Miami's Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing, told The Associated Press that the oil slick is approximately the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.