Teams of scientists working with the U.S. government estimate that 62,000 barrels of oil a day—or a total of 4.9 million barrels—leaked into the Gulf of Mexico from the shattered well operated by BP PLC government agencies said Monday.
The new estimate exceeds scientists’ previous estimate. That one said the Macondo well was gushing between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels of oil a day after the April 20 blast aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig, which BP had leased to drill the well.
The scientific teams also estimate that as oil gushed out of the well over several weeks, the level of hydrocarbons in the underground reservoir was depleted. That resulted in a lower flow of oil out of the well, to about 53,000 barrels of oil a day just before BP sealed the well a little more than two weeks ago.
The scientists also calculated that 800,000 barrels of the 4.9 million barrels were dispensed with by siphoning and flaring by BP.
Under the Clean Water Act, BP might have to pay a fine of at least $1,100 per barrel of oil spilled. If the government determines that the spill was the result of gross negligence, the fine could spike to $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled. Based on the new spill estimate, BP would face a fine of more than $4 billion on the low end.
BP was preparing to begin preliminary steps Tuesday to kill the deepwater well by flooding it with thousands of barrels of drilling mud.