The well is leaking at an estimated rate of 5,000 barrels a day, according to BP, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That estimate was challenged May 14 by U.S. Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, citing analysis by independent researchers that it may be more than 10 times higher.
BP said yesterday it successfully installed the 4-inch (10.2-centimeter) diameter tube into the 21-inch severed pipe, the main source of leaking oil. At least 94,000 barrels (3.9 million gallons) have leaked into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20 and sank two days later, causing the death of 11 crew members.
BP is proceeding with previously announced plans to try and plug the top of the well this week, Suttles said. The “top kill” method involves injecting heavy drilling fluids into the well, followed by cement to seal it, London-based BP said today in a statement.
“I’d be surprised if they get more than 10 percent or 20 percent of the oil up that little pipe,” said Steve Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. “There’s friction in that pipe and you can’t pump it from the top. You have to push it from the bottom.”
BP is slowly opening a choke, a device that controls pressure at the top of the well, to increase flow into the pipe now rising to the ship, Robert Dudley, BP executive vice president for the Americas and Asia, said today on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Ian MacDonald, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University, estimated the spill rate at 25,000 barrels a day on April 30, based on surface observations of the oil slick.
BP is looking into the scientists’ claims about the size of the flow, though the main focus remains on “stopping the leak and minimizing the impact on the surface,” Mark Proegler, a company spokesman in Houston, said yesterday. He declined to comment on Markey’s statement.