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Gulf Oil Spill Size Larger Than Previously Estimated

Oil company BP says it is siphoning nearly 800,000 liters of oil a day from a broken underwater well in the Gulf of Mexico. The figure indicates the leak is larger than estimated earlier.

The company, relying on U.S. Coast Guard estimates, had said in late April that 800,000 liters was the total amount leaking from the deep-sea well each day.

But a BP spokesman, Mark Proegler, noted Thursday there are two leaks, and BP is only siphoning oil from one.

Proegler did not have a new estimate for how much oil is spilling. He said even if the amount is greater, it would not change containment efforts, which have focused on capping the broken well and containing oil at the surface.

Oil and natural gas began pouring out of a deep-sea well when a BP-leased oil drilling rig exploded on April 20.

Heavy oil from the leak has begun washing up on the shore of Louisiana, threatening the southern U.S. state's marshlands and wildlife.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal first reported seeing heavier pollution Wednesday, calling it a "day that we have all been fearing."

Also, U.S. government scientists say a light oil sheen has entered a fast-moving stream of water known as the "Loop Current," which could carry the oil east to Florida and Cuba.

The U.S. State Department says American and Cuban officials are discussing how to respond.

BP is planning new efforts to plug the equipment on top of the well with heavy mud and cement, starting in the next few days.

BP spokesman Proegler says cleanup crews have had success containing oil on the surface of the water with controlled burns. He says 9,000 barrels of oil have been burned this way so far, not including five different controlled burns taking place Thursday.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.