"Gulf Spill Could Be Much Worse Than Believed"

"There's at least 10 times as much oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico than official estimates suggest, according to an exclusive NPR analysis.

At NPR's request, experts analyzed video that BP released Wednesday. Their findings suggest the BP spill is already far larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska, which spilled at least 250,000 barrels of oil.

BP has said repeatedly that there is no reliable way to measure the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by looking at the oil gushing out of the pipe. But scientists say there are actually many proven techniques for doing just that.

Steven Wereley, an associate professor at Purdue University, analyzed videotape of the sea-floor gusher using a technique called particle image velocimetry.

A computer program simply tracks particles, and calculates how fast they are moving. Wereley put the BP video of the gusher into his computer. He made a few simple calculations and came up with an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill: 70,000 barrels a day — much higher than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day."

Richard Harris reports for NPR's Morning Edition May 14, 2010.

Friday, May 14, 2010