A screenshot of the NYT spill tracker from June 18.

So how much oil is it?

Well, a standard barrel of oil is about 42 US gallons. And a gallon is about 4 litres. I say this because I, for one, don’t convert between these units often enough to always understand the reports I hear. The Exxon Valdez catastrophe dumped about 11 million gallons of oil (or roughly 262 thousand barrels, or about 44 million litres), so let’s call 11 million gallons, 1 EVU (Exxon Valdez Unit). 1

So, 1 EVU is about 262,000 barrels, which is about 11 million gallons, which is about 44 million litres.

The spill gushing started on April 20th 2010.

The public relations strategy cover up by BP, and BP experts, have been steadily underestimating the flow of oil.2 3 It is interesting to note that prior to the rupture, BP had estimated the worst case flow rate of about 162,000 barrels a day. 4 That’s about 6.8 million gallons, or roughly 0.6 EVUs per day.

Steve Wereley, an engineer from Purdue University, initially thought the leak may be 70,000 barrels or roughly .25 EVUs per day. Later, publishing with Ian R. MacDonald, John Amos and Timothy Crone, they collectively estimated the flow at between 40,000 barrels and 100,000 barrels a day. That’s between .15 EVUs and .38 EVUs per day.5 6 It’s refreshing to read their article because it so clearly indicts BP in regards to their refusal to allow effective third party measurement of the flow.

So do the math

We’re coming up on two months of gushing oil. If you take the lesser estimate, we’re looking at about: 60 days x .15 EVUs = 9 EVUs

If you take the greater flow rate, we’re looking at about: 60 days x .38 EVUs = 23 EVUs

In conclusion

Looks like the BP oil catastrophe has so far gushed between 9 and 23 times the amount of oil that the Exxon Valdez dumped.

For Further Reading

  1. Is America’s Chernobyl in Canada’s Future
  2. Are We Poisoning Ourselves or What?
  3. Dispersant is a Cover Up and a Toxic Chemical/
  4. BP Executive Denies Oil Plume
  1. I might have just coined a new unit. Did I?
  2. http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/06/09/bp-executive-oil-plume.html
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill#Spill_flow_rate
  4. Griffitt, Michelle. “Initial Exploration Plan Mississippi Canyon Block 252 OCS-G 32306” (PDF). BP Exploration and Production (New Orleans, Louisiana: Minerals Management Service). http://www.gomr.mms.gov/PI/PDFImages/PLANS/29/29977.pdf
  5. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/22/opinion/22macdonald.html
  6. I should add that Ian R. MacDonald is a professor of oceanography at Florida State University, John Amos is the president of SkyTruth, which uses satellite images to monitor environmental problems, Timothy Crone is a research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Steve Wereley is a professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

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