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article imageRate of Gulf Oil Leakage Still in Dispute

By Martin Laine     Jun 5, 2010 in Environment
No sooner had the government touted the findings of an independent panel of experts showing that the rate of leaking oil in the gulf was far higher than previously reported, when two of the researchers began distancing themselves from the results.
On Thursday, Dr. Marcia McNutt, director of the United States Geological Survey, announced the results of the Flow Rate Group, a team of researchers from around the country who studied the available information coming from the BP oil spill to come up with a more accurate estimate of the amount of oil spilling from the damaged oil rig.
According to McNutt, the researchers estimated the oil was leaking at a rate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day.
Everyone seems to agree on the number on the low end. It’s the upper limit that’s causing the disagreement.
One of them, University of Rhode Island oceanographer Peter C. Cornillion felt so strongly that he has asked that his name be removed from the report.
“I withdrew because I didn’t want this to be misinterpreted and to come out looking stupid, and that’s exactly what happened,” Cornillion told the Providence Journal.
Another researcher, Ira Leifer of the Marine Science Institute at the University of California-Santa Barbara, was upset because he felt the upper limit given in the announcement was too low.
“It’s safe to say that the total amount is significantly larger,” said Leifer in a press release. “I do not feel comfortable yet to provide an upper bound.”
In a statement after the initial announcement, McNutt explained she chose the 19,000 barrels a day upper limit number by combining the results of several studies, even though some of these studies showed significantly higher quantities.
Leifer said the team didn’t get enough verifiable information to make a reliable estimate.
“What is missing completely is independent data,” Leifer said. “(The Group) is being asked to extrapolate seven minutes of BP low-quality video to three weeks. I am very uncomfortable taking a BP-selected time segment and concluding that it is representative of the emission rate over the whole time period.”
More about Gulf oil spill, USGS, Flow rate group
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