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Leifer said based on the data he's seen so far, the rate of flow from the broken well has increased since the initial April 20 explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 workers. He believes BP's decision last week to sever the well's damaged riser pipe in order to install the containment cap has increased the flow by far more than the 20 percent BP and government officials had predicted.
In fact, Leifer says, the well may be spewing what BP had called before the spill its worst-case scenario — as much as 100,000 barrels a day from a freely flowing pipe...
Judging by live undersea videos, "it looks like a freely flowing pipe," Leifer said. "From what it looks like right now it suggests to me they’re capturing a negligible fraction."
"It's an infusion of oil and gas unlike anything else that has ever been seen anywhere, certainly in human history," said Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia, the expedition leader.
Not all of the millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico are coming from the blown-out well damaged by an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig.
Instead, some of the oil is leaking from a nearby drilling rig named the Ocean Saratoga, the Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register newspaper reports.
That rig has been leaking since at least April 30, 10 days after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 oil workers. Federal officials cited the Ocean Saratoga leak in a trajectory map for oil washing ashore from the Deepwater Horizon spill, the newspaper reported.
Federal officials didn't respond to the newspaper's request for comment, and officials from Ocean Saratoga's owner, Diamond Offshore, referred the newspaper's questions to Taylor Energy Co., which owns the well. Taylor Energy also didn't respond to the newspaper's request for comment.
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry was asked about the Ocean Saratoga at a May 17 press conference, and she responded then that she was unaware of another rig leaking in the Gulf, the newspaper reported. The newspaper didn't find any other mentions of the leak in federal documents.
The newspaper cited the website SkyTruth.org as the first organization to report the leak. The website posted satellite pictures of a 10-mile-long slick visible near the Ocean Saratoga rig.
Purdue University engineering professor Steve Wereley said it was a "reasonable conclusion" but not the team's final one to say that the daily flow rate is, in fact, somewhere between 798,000 gallons and 1.8 million gallons.
"BP is claiming they're capturing the majority of the flow, which I think is going to be proven wrong in short order," Wereley said. "Why don't they show the American public the before-and-after shots?"
He added: "It's strictly an estimation, and they are portraying it as fact."