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Oil spill estimate doubles as BP's shares take beating

Reuters

Experts in the United States on Thursday more than doubled the estimated size of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The chairman of British Petroleum has meanwhile been summoned to a White House meeting with President Barack Obama.

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New data shows that upwards of 40,000 barrels a day, or some 1.7 million gallons, may have gushed from the blown-out well before it was capped on 3 June.

The news rounds off a miserable day for BP, in which its share price plummeted in early London trading. It sunk to its lowest level since 1997, before closing down 6.7 per cent.

BP's share price has collapsed more than 40 per cent, wiping tens of billions of dollars off its market value, since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 22 April.

Friday could be worse as the markets had already closed by the time Marcia McNutt, chairing the US government's flow rate assessment team, doubled the previous official flow figures of between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels per day.

Daily images of oiled birds and crude-covered marshes has served to reinforce the impression that BP has been disingenuous about the size of the spill from the start to try to limit its liability.

The company's first estimate was only 1,000 barrels per day and it stuck to a later estimate of 5,000 barrels a day even as that amount was being siphoned to the surface with more oil and natural gas still clearly gushing out.

The cap is now capturing 15,800 barrels a day, but the latest data suggests at least 4,200 barrels and possibly up to 25,000 barrels, more than one million gallons, is still spewing into the sea each day.

At least 40 million gallons of crude has already poured into the Gulf, and perhaps double that. By comparison, the Exxon Valdez tanker leaked roughly 11 million gallons into the sea off the Alaskan coast in 1989.
 

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