WASHINGTON—More than half of the oil that spilled into the sea from BP PLC’s blown-out well remains in the Gulf of Mexico and is a “highly durable material” that is now buried along the coast and on the sea floor, a Florida State University professor told a spill commission on Monday.
“The remaining fraction—over 50% of the total discharge—is a highly durable material that resists further dissipation,” oceanographer Ian MacDonald said in prepared testimony to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. “Much of it is now buried in marine and coastal sediments. There is scant evidence for bacterial degradation of this material prior to burial.”
The comments—the strongest contradiction yet of last month’s U.S. government estimate that the remaining oil appeared to be degrading quickly—came on a day when commissioners also repeatedly questioned responders about initial estimates that 1,000 barrels of oil and then 5,000 barrels of oil were flowing from the well. The flow rate is estimated to have been 62,000 barrels a day at its maximum.