The US Coast Guard now fears the underwater oil well spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico could become an unchecked gusher shooting millions of gallons of oil per day, The Mobile Press-Register reported Saturday.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mississippi Responder is pictured during cleanup activity in the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana where oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead continues to spread April 28, 2010
Citing a confidential National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report on the unfolding spill disaster, the Alabama newspaper said two additional release points had been found in the tangled riser.
"If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked resulting in a release volume an order of magnitude higher than previously thought," the paper quotes the report as saying.
Asked Friday to comment on the document, NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen said that the additional leaks were reported to the public late Wednesday, The Press-Register said.
Regarding the possibility of the spill becoming an order of magnitude larger, Smullen said, "I'm letting the document you have speak for itself."
In scientific circles, an order of magnitude means something that is 10 times larger, the paper said.
In this case, it would mean the volume of oil coming from the well could be 10 times higher than the 5,000 barrels a day coming out now, The Press-Register concluded.
That would mean 50,000 barrels a day, or 2.1 million gallons a day.