Easy Sustainability Answers

How are scientists measuring the size of the oil spill?

Adriene Hill Jul 15, 2010

Easy Answer: They’re estimating the volume of oil already in the ocean and working on establishing flow rates.

The bigger the oil spill, the bigger the fines for BP. The company could be on the hook for between $1100 and $4300 per barrel.

I went with producer Angela Kim to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory this week to talk to NASA scientist Robert Green about how he’s using a special piece of equipment called AVIRIS to try to come up with volume estimates of the oil spill. Here’s what we learned:

Other scientists are also trying to estimate the rate the oil was spewing out of the well. The Flow Rate Technical Group is in the process of working up new estimates–which they expect to have out soon. Their current flow guesses: between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day.

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