BP has announced grants totaling $25 million to three research institutions in the Gulf Coast region working to study the distribution, composition, and ecological interactions of oil and dispersant.
The grants to Louisiana State University ($5 million), the Florida Institute of Oceanography ($10 million), and the Northern Gulf Institute ($10 million) are the first to be awarded as part of the oil giant's previously announced $500 million commitment to the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, an open research program that will study the impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on the environment and public health in the Gulf region. Among other things, the initial studies will help establish critical baseline data as a foundation for subsequent research.
In related news, a federal government panel has released a new estimate of the amount of oil flowing from BP's damaged well, the New York Times reports. Already characterized as the largest oil spill in U.S. history, the magnitude of the disaster has grown worse as estimates of the amount of crude spilling into the Gulf have increased from an original estimate of 5,000 barrels a day. On Tuesday, scientists said the flow rate could be as high as 60,000 barrels a day; BP is capturing roughly 15,000 barrels a day, meaning that some 45,000 barrels a day could be spilling into the Gulf.
"It is vitally important that research start immediately into the oil and dispersant's impact, and that the findings are shared fully and openly," said BP CEO Tony Hayward. "We support the independence of these institutions and projects, and hope that the funding will have a significant positive effect on scientists' understanding of the impact of the spill."