BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster is officially the worst accidental oil spill on record, U.S. authorities said Monday.
Scientists appointed by the Department of Energy now estimate that some 4.9 million barrels or more than 205 million gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf following the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon well on April 20. Roughly 33 million gallons were captured during containment efforts, resulting in a total spill of around 4.1 million barrels.
The BP spill exceeds the previous record-holder—Mexico’s Ixtoc-1 well in the Bay of Campeche, which leaked some 3.3 million barrels in 1979, but falls short of the 6 to 8 million barrels released by Iraqi forces during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
In addition to facing civil liabilities and clean up costs, BP could be fined $1,100-4,300 per barrel under U.S. law. The company has set aside more than $32 billion to pay for damages.
BP intends to permanently seal the well Tuesday using a “static kill” procedure.