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BP Says Oil Capture Rate Falls to 2,200 Barrels a Day

Friday, 21 May 2010 | 3:18 PM ET
A Greenpeace activist walks on an oil-covered beach along the Gulf of Mexico on May 20, 2010 near Venice, Louisiana. Although BP says that it is capturing more of the massive oil leak, thousands of barrels continue gushing into the Gulf south of the Louisiana coast.
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A Greenpeace activist walks on an oil-covered beach along the Gulf of Mexico on May 20, 2010 near Venice, Louisiana. Although BP says that it is capturing more of the massive oil leak, thousands of barrels continue gushing into the Gulf south of the Louisiana coast.

BP says the amount of crude it's siphoning from the Gulf of Mexico leak fell to 2,200 barrels a day, down sharply from a capture of 5,000 barrels reported yesterday, due to a change in the flow of oil from the ruptured undersea well.

The flow today is made up of larger quantities of natural gas, 15 million cubic feet, a source familiar with the situation tells CNBC. The company is now able to better measure the composition of the flow, six days into the siphoning operation, using a mile-long tube inserted into the pipe leaking down on the ocean floor. The mixture of oil and gas coming from the leak fluctuates continuously, the source says.

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Critics have charged BP has underestimated the amount of oil spewing from the well, and the resulting magnitude of the spill, since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig more than a month ago.

The oil giant and the Coast Guard have estimated the flow at roughly 5,000 barrels a day. The criticism grew overnight, when a live feed of the plume posted on the House Energy and Commerce website showed oil still spewing from the pipe, even as the company said it was capture 5,000 barrels.

BP says it will have more on the oil capture operations at this afternoon's Joint Task Force briefing from Louisiana at 3 pm eastern.

The company is also expected to offer an update on the EPA order to use less toxic chemicals in its effort to break up the oil spill. BP had been using an EPA-approved dispersant called Corexit, made by chemical manufacturer Nalco . The agency has given BP until midnight tonight to come up with alternative approved dispersants, with less toxic ratings.

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