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Gulf oil spill: Leak is far greater than Exxon Valdez disaster [Updated]

May 27, 2010 |  7:43 am

The blown-out BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico had been gushing at a rate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day, spewing at least 18 million to 28 million gallons of oil since the accident occurred, according to a revised flow rate released by the U.S. Geological Survey.

That would make the 36-day leak by far the worst in U.S. history, surpassing the Exxon Valdez disaster, which spilled 11 million gallons into Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989.

USGS Director Dr. Marcia McNutt chaired the Flow Rate Technical Group charged with estimating the flow of oil into the gulf from the April 20 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

She said that on May 17, the team estimated 130,000 to 270,000 barrels of oil were on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, based on NASA imaging instruments. She said the analysis team estimated that an equal amount had had been burned, skimmed, dispersed or evaporated.

[Updated at 7:53 a.m. BP had first said 1,000 barrels were leaking, then estimated that 5,000 barrels a day were spewing into the gulf, after experts questioned the flow rate.]

-- Geoff Mohan

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