London, Jun 19 (ANI): British Petroleum's out-of-control well will go on discharging oil into the Gulf of Mexico for the next two years or more if all attempts to contain or plug it fail, oil industry experts have said.
The estimates, based on new figures given by BP's chief executive Tony Hayward during seven hours of testimony to US Congress on Thursday, suggest the potential environmental and economic devastation would far outdo the damage done so far by the ruptured well, which has been spewing for 60 days.
Hayward told a Congressional committee on Thursday the reservoir still held 50m barrels, providing fresh urgency to efforts to contain the oil, or seal off the gusher completely with a relief well, The Guardian reports.
Using the government's present flow estimates of up to 60,000 barrels a day, BP's well could go on gushing for two to four years, unless it is stopped.
"If it went uncontrolled it could certainly leak for two years and certainly longer than that," said Philip Johnson, a professor of petroleum engineering at the University of Alabama.
But he said the leak rate would fall sharply over time once the natural gas in the reservoir is exhausted. "That is the driving force. As soon as that is gone, it won't leak at any serious rate."
But the 50m figure cited by Hayward took some industry insiders by surprise, The Guardian reports.
"I would assume that 500m barrels would be a more likely estimate," said Tadeusz Patzek, the chairman of the department of petroleum and geosystems engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.
"I don't think you would be going after a 50mbarrel reservoir so quickly. This is just simply not enough oil to go after," he added.
BP spokesmen said that Barton was referring to recoverable oil rather than the total size of the reservoir, The Guardian reports. (ANI)