The amount of oil gushing from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is five times more than what the oil company and the U.S. Coast Guard are currently estimating, said a Florida State University oceanography professor on Saturday.
At an oil spill environmental forum at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front, Ian MacDonald said the blowout is gushing 25,000 barrels a day.
The Coast Guard and BP estimate 5,000 barrels a day of crude is spewing into the Gulf.
MacDonald said his estimate is based on satellite images and government maps forecasting the slick’s trajectory.
MacDonald also told a crowd of about 100 gathered for the discussion that he’s been frustrated by the lack of data from federal responders and BP since the April 20 explosion and subsequent spill.
Dick Snyder, director of the Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation at the University of West Florida, said satellite imagery and maps give a misleading picture of the spread of the spill.
Chemical dispersants and exposure to sunlight have made some of the oil nearly invisible and hard to detect, he said.
Testing seawater for a hydrocarbon signature is needed to adequately track the oil spill so cleanup operations can be activated before it arrives, Snyder said.
A proposal by UWF to conduct such testing off the Pensacola coast was rejected by the state Department of Environmental Protection, Snyder said.
Both Snyder and MacDonald are members of the newly created Oil Spill Academic Task Force.
The organization brings together resources of Florida’s academic institutions to assist the state of Florida and the Gulf region in preparing for and responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The task force consists of scientists and scholars working in collaboration with colleges from the State University System as well as private colleges.