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Federal authorities have ordered BP to get more aggressive with its plans to recover thousands of barrels of oil spewing from a broken well into the Gulf of Mexico, according to a letter made public Saturday.


 In the letter, Rear Adm. James Watson, the government’s on-scene incident manager, gave BP 48 hours to identify and expedite other ways to contain oil, given new estimates that doubled the amount of crude gushing out every day.

Researchers reported this week that up to 40,000 barrels, or 1.7 million gallons, a day may have escaped from the BP well in the 54 days since the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in April.

That would mean almost 100 million gallons have spewed since the rig exploded — many times the amount spilled by the supertanker Exxon Valdez in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989.

“It is clear that additional capacity is urgently needed,” Watson said in the letter Friday to Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer.

“I am concerned that your current plans do not provide for maximum mobilization of resources to provide the needed collection capacity consistent with revised flow rates,” Watson said. “I am also concerned that your plan does not go far enough to mobilize redundant resources in the event of an equipment failure with one of the vessels or some other unforeseen problem.”

BP has captured some of the gushing oil through a containment cap that has been pumping the crude up to a drilling ship for about a week. It collected 15,500 barrels, or 651,000 gallons, on Friday and has been able to remove a total of 104,300 barrels, or about 4.4 million gallons, from Gulf waters so far.

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