* BP well flow estimated at 35,000-60,000 barrels per day
* U.S. govt has revised flow estimate upward three times
* U.S. says latest number is most comprehensive to date
(New throughout, adds details, background)
By Kristen Hays
HOUSTON, June 15 A team of U.S. scientists on
Tuesday upped their high-end estimate of the amount of crude
oil flowing from BP Plc's (BP.L) (BP.N) stricken Gulf of Mexico
well by 50 percent, the second major upward revision in less
than a week.
The scientists said the "most likely flow rate of oil
today" ranges from 35,000 to 60,000 barrels (1.47 million and
2.52 million gallons/5.57 million and 9.54 million litres) per
That is a significant jump from the last estimate issued by
the Flow Rate Technical Group on June 10 and pegging the well's
flow at 20,000 to 40,000 barrels per day.
And those figures were considerably higher than the
previous "best estimate" of 12,000-19,000 bpd issued by the
flow rate group on May 27.
"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," said
Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
The team of scientists said they may revise the estimates
again as they gather new data on the well, one mile (1.6 km)
beneath the ocean surface.
Even at the minimum estimated rate of 35,000 bpd, the
ruptured well has dumped nearly 2 million barrels of oil into
the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on
April 20 -- nearly eight times the amount that the Exxon Valdez
spilled into Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1989.
At the U.S. government's direction, BP is boosting its oil
capturing capacity to up to 53,000 bpd by the end of June and
to 80,000 bpd by mid-July from about 18,000 bpd.
The new estimates come from detailed pressure data taken by
instruments inside BP's oil-containment device on the sea floor
over the last 24 hours, the government said.
"This estimate, which we will continue to refine as the
scientific teams get new data and conduct new analyses, is the
most comprehensive estimate so far of how much oil is flowing
one mile below the ocean's surface," Interior Secretary Ken
Salazar said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Chris Baltimore; editing by Chris