NEW ORLEANS -- Scientists provided a new estimate for the amount of oil gushing from a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday that indicates it could be worse than previously thought.
A government panel of scientists said that the ruptured well is leaking between 1.47 million and 2.52 million gallons a day of oil. That is an increase over previous estimates that put the maximum size of the spill at 2.1 million gallons per day.
"This estimate brings together several scientific methodologies and the latest information from the sea floor, and represents a significant step forward in our effort to put a number on the oil that is escaping from BP's well," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.
The latest numbers reflect an increase in the flow that scientists believe happened after undersea robots earlier this month cut off a kinked pipe near the sea floor that was believed to be restricting the flow of oil, just as a bend in a garden hose reduces water flow. BP officials has estimated that cutting the kinked pipe likely increased the flow by up 20 percent.
The pipe was removed so BP could install a containment cap that is trapping leaking oil and drawing it a ship waiting on the ocean surface.
The new numbers are based on a combination of scientific data, including an analysis of high-resolution video taken by underwater robots, pressure meters, sonar, and measurements of oil collected by the containment device on top of the well.
It is the fourth -- and perhaps not last -- time the federal government has had to increase its estimate of how much oil is gushing. At one point, the federal government claimed only 42,000 gallons were spilling a day and then it upped the number to 210,000 gallons.