(CNSNews.com) – In a new report, a team of scientists under the direction of the Obama administration estimates that 4.9 million barrels of oil leaked from the BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico before it was capped on July 15, with approximately 800,000 barrels of that oil contained by other means, such as skimmers and burn-off.
The leak, which began on April 20 when part of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers, is the largest globally to date. But according to the U.S. government, the amount of oil spilled in the Gulf is more than 400,000 barrels less than the number of barrels of oil produced from offshore and onshore drilling in the United States in just one day.
The Department of Energy’s U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that in 2009 the United States produced 5,361,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Based on that data, U.S. offshore and onshore drilling produces about 1.96 billion barrels of crude oil each year.
The new report, released on Monday, estimating the amount of oil spilled by the BP rig, was done by the National Incident Command's Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG), led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Director Marcia McNutt, and a team of Department of Energy (DOE) scientists and engineers led by Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
The group is under the command of retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who was named National Incident Commander of the BP spill by President Barack Obama.
A press release issued on Monday by the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center on the BP spill estimate said it was “based on new pressure readings, data, and analysis.”
A spokesperson with BP Global told CNSNews.com that while BP has provided data to the federal government on the well, the company is not part of the FRTG. She also said that estimating the amount of oil spilled is “complicated.”
“We think it's very important that we know the amount of oil that has been released and the flow rate technical group has produced a number of estimates, and our experts will continue to study the issue because it's very complicated,” spokesperson Elizabeth Adams said. “However, there will always be uncertainty in an estimate because the flow can't be measured directly.”
The ultimate decision on the oil spill measurement has implications for both the Obama administration and BP because of federal fines that could be levied against the British company based on the amount of spillage.
For now, the Obama administration is lauding the report.
“The revised estimates are part of this administration's ongoing commitment to ensuring that we have the most accurate information possible," Energy Secretary Chu said in the press release. “I am grateful to the scientists and engineers who have worked diligently to help us meet that goal.”
“The new containment cap and the well-integrity testing procedures have provided new data and new opportunities to firm up some of the unknowns and narrow in on a more refined estimate," McNutt said. "I appreciate the tireless work of scientists inside and outside of government who are lending their expertise in service to their country and bringing the best science to bear on this effort."
The report said the margin of error in the estimate was plus or minus 10 percent.
Adams said that BP currently is focused on other priorities.
“Our primary focus continues to be on the operational response, so we're doing what it takes to kill the well and complete the clean up and the environmental damage, and to ensure that those who have lost income as a result of the accident are made whole,” Adams said.