According to CNN, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill leaked 176.4 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. By comparison, and also according to CNN, they say

According to the [the Department of Justice's September] filing, the Taylor spill is spewing anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 gallons of oil a day.

They conclude saying that this would mean the Taylor oil spill has dumped...

More than 153 million gallons over 14 years.

This suggests the Taylor Oil spill is a similar magnitude the Deep Water Horizon. Is this correct?

It seems unreasonable that a leak though over a longer duration but still (almost) as massive as Deepwater Horizon could have gone unnoticed for 14 years. The Taylor spill didn't even have a wikipedia page three days ago.

  • This issue came up recently: are you really asking "does the math check out" as a calculator exercise [Hey, look: 153m/14/365=30k. It must be right!] or as a call for empirical support for or against the claim?
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 24, 2018 at 6:26
  • 1
    Support for or against the claim. Any one can do napkin math. Did the spill get worse? Is that a sound method for calculating a leak to begin with? Oct 24, 2018 at 6:53
  • So following the CNN article to the source takes you to a Wall Street Journal article that is currently behind a paywall. Can anyone quote what the WSJ piece says? wsj.com/articles/…
    – DenisS
    Oct 24, 2018 at 13:53
  • 1
    I think any assessment of "worse" would have to include the ability to manage, absorb or remediate certain volumes of oil. If nature can handle X gallons of oil per day without significant impact and/or human intervention can intercept and cancel out a certain volume/rate of oil, then dumping a given volume over the course of a couple weeks vs many years is going to have a different impact. Oct 26, 2018 at 14:53

1 Answer 1


So, according to the Washington Post version of the story (also behind a pay wall), it's not clear exactly how large the spill is. However, recent analysis has shown that the Coast Guard National Response Center estimate of 1-55 barrels per day (a barrel is 42 gallons) is wrong and the actual estimate is closer to 300 to 700 barrels per day. (The company apparently claimed it was two barrels a day and none from the actual wells.) The leak has being around since 2004 when the platform went down during Hurricane Ivan. At the 700 barrels/day estimate, yes, the math gives you 153 million gallons spilled over these 14 years.

As to why it has only recently been a big story, no one argues the original spill of 620 barrels on the platform when it went down and apparently the low initial estimate has kept it off the news. Apparently the ongoing disaster wasn't really comprehended until monitoring of the BP spill showed oil where it wasn't supposed to be and they traced it back to this Taylor platform.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .