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Oil spill could be Gulf's biggest ever, new flow estimate suggests

Scientists revised the estimated flow rate for a fifth time Tuesday, saying between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels a day are leaking from the well. That could mean that nearly 3 million barrels of oil have gushed into the Gulf since the oil spill began April 20.

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An oil slick covers the water near the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Sunday. Scientists released new estimates Tuesday about how much oil is flowing from the leak.

Dave Martin/AP

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BP's Deepwater Horizon blowout is spewing between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels a day, with up to 18,000 barrels currently being captured, according to a fresh estimate released this afternoon by the National Incident Command's flow-rate technical group.

The new number is a revision – and a significant increase – of the estimate released last week, which pegged the flow rate at 20,000 to 40,000 barrels (840,000 to 1.68 million gallons) a day.

If the new estimate represents how much oil has been spewing from the well since the April 20 blowout, then the Gulf oil spill is in a position to eclipse the 1979 Ixtoc blowout as the region's worst offshore oil spill. By these new figures, the Deepwater Horizon blowout might have pumped as much as 2.7 million barrels into the Gulf. The Ixtoc blowout released some 3 million barrels of oil over the 10 months it took to cap it.

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The upper end of the new daily estimate carries the biggest uncertainty, according to US Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "As we continue to collect additional data and refine these estimates, it is important to realize that the numbers can change," he said in a prepared statement.

Fifth revision

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