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Hi-res underwater video of gushing Gulf oil rig released

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Hi-res video of oil leak released
  • NEW: BP says it will donate revenues from sale of some oil to wildlife relief fund
  • NEW: President Obama to visit areas affected, review efforts to clean up and contain oil spill
  • Water analysis in three sites show "low concentrations" of subsea oil, NOAA chief says
  • Advocacy group MoveOn plans to hold nationwide vigils Tuesday night

Were there warning signs that a disaster was about to happen on the BP oil rig? Five survivors of the rig tell Anderson Cooper about the days leading up to the explosion. Watch "AC360°" at 10 ET p.m. Tuesday.

Destin, Florida (CNN) -- A new high-resolution video released Tuesday shows startling underwater images of the ruptured well gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico two days after robots made a cut of the well's riser pipe in preparation for the latest containment effort of the environmental disaster.

BP released the first high-quality images from the ocean floor after Sens. Barbara Boxer and Bill Nelson requested in a letter Tuesday "full access to all video" related to the disaster to help independent experts determine the exact rate of oil flowing from the well.

The latest estimates have put the rate at a minimum of between 12,000 and 25,000 barrels a day (500,000 to 1 million gallons), but scientists on the government's Flow Rate Technical Group have complained about the quality of video used to determine those numbers, saying the rate could be significantly higher.

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BP's own worst-case scenario puts the high-end estimate at 250,000 barrels (10.5 million gallons) a day.

The new images, captured June 3, prompted "strong concerns" from at least one scientist about the true rate of oil flowing into the Gulf daily.

BP had estimated cutting the riser pipe -- a step necessary to place a containment cap over the well -- could increase the flow by 20 percent.

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"I think it's very difficult from looking at the video to say it has increased by 20 percent or it has increased by 100 percent," said Steven Wereley, a professor at Purdue University and a member of the group tasked with estimating the flow. "But, what I can say is I have strong concerns and I think the Flow Rate Technical Group really needs to take this under consideration."

Boxer and Nelson wrote in their letter that any delay in releasing the material undermines the ability of scientists to make an accurate estimate.

"BP must not hinder the investigation of this matter by making available only preselected data and/or video for review as we understand has generally been the case to date," wrote Boxer, D-California, and Nelson, D-Florida.

CNN Live: Underwater video of oil leak

The new video came on Day 50 of the Gulf oil disaster, as the Obama administration's response manager, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, reported that BP's collection of crude from the well has been "steadily climbing."

He said the British oil giant had kept 14,800 barrels (621,000 gallons) of oil from flowing into the Gulf in the past 24 hours, and the company expects to increase that number in the days ahead.

BP said it collected 7,850 barrels (330,000 gallons) from midnight to noon Tuesday and 42,500 barrels (1.8 million gallons) in the past four days, since the containment cap was successfully placed on the well head. The company said it will donate net revenues from the sale of oil skimmed off the surface of the Gulf of Mexico to a new fund created to help restore the wildlife affected by the environmental disaster.

With national anger seething, President Obama ratcheted up his war of words, delivering a blunt defense of his administration's response to the spill. He told NBC's "Today" show that he has held meetings with experts and has learned "whose ass to kick."

"I don't sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar," Obama said in an interview that aired Tuesday. "We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."

Obama looking for 'whose ass to kick'

The president made the comment after "Today" host Matt Lauer said that some critics believed it was "not the time to meet with experts and advisers" but rather "time to spend more time in the Gulf and ... kick some butt."

Obama announced Tuesday he will make his fourth trip to the Gulf Coast since the spill erupted in late April, with stops in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Local fishermen, officials, congressmen and environmental advocacy groups are putting increasing pressure on the government and BP officials to stop the spill.

BP has managed to place a loose-fitting cap over the well 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf and about 40 miles off Louisiana. But the gusher won't be completely shut until BP completes drilling a relief well, a process that is expected to last until August.

Update on Gulf Coast beaches

"I am still disgusted with the lack of leadership and no one stepping up to take charge and say, 'We're not going to let the oil hit the beaches,'" said Tony Kennon, mayor of Orange Beach, Alabama, who confronted a top BP official at a news conference on Saturday.

"The word 'overkill' doesn't exist in my vocabulary right now," Kennon said. "I think we should have every possible asset on the shelf for any possible problem and have a contingency plan for any issue. I don't feel like that's the case."

The brother of one of the 11 workers killed in the explosion on the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon blasted BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward on Tuesday.

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Christopher Jones highlighted Hayward's recent remark that he wants his "life back."

Rig survivors: BP ordered shortcut on day of blast

"Mr. Hayward, I want my brother's life back," Jones said. "We will never get [his] life back."

Hayward has been summoned by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations to appear June 17 at a hearing into the spill investigation.

A frustrated advocacy group was planning nationwide vigils set for Tuesday night to call for stepped-up efforts to stop the spill.

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Political action group called for a "major public outcry" and created a section on its website for people to search for vigils in their area by typing in their zip codes.

Water samples from the Gulf have confirmed low concentrations of oil below the surface and miles away from the ruptured well head, the head of the National Oceanic and Astmospheric Administration said Tuesday.

But oil found by a University of South Florida research vessel 142 miles southeast of BP's broken well did not come from that well, said Jane Lubchenco of NOAA.

Analysis of water from three sites show that "there is definitely oil subsurface" in "very low concentrations," Lubchenco said.

"We suspected that but it's good to have confirmation," she said.

BP had stated earlier that it had found no evidence of subsea oil.

Lubchenco said a University of South Florida research ship performed the testing of the water, taking samples from sites 40, 42 and 142 miles from the well. Surface oil found at the closest site, northeast of the well, was matched to oil from the spewing oil well, while tests on samples found at the next closest site, also northeast of the well, were inconclusive. In both cases, subsea oil was found in too small a quantity to determine if it came from the BP well.

But 142 miles southeast of the well, samples collected at 100-meter and 300-meter depths were determined not to be from the BP well, Lubchenco said.

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