An executive for British Petroleum admitted Thursday an oil leak from a sunken rig in the Gulf of Mexico may be larger than the company previously estimated and said BP would accept military help to fight the leak.
Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer of exploration and production, backed away from his previous claim that only 1,000 barrels per day were leaking, telling CBS' "The Early Show", "we think the range has increased" to "somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 barrels" per day.
The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is even worse than believed and as the government grows concerned that the rig's operator is ill-equipped to contain it, officials are offering a military response to try to avert a massive environmental disaster along the ecologically fragile U.S. coastline.
But time may be running out. Not only was a third leak discovered - which government officials said is spewing five times as much oil into the water than originally estimated - but it might be closer to shore than previously known, and could have oil washing up on shore by Friday.
The time may have come for the defense department and other public agencies to offer up "technologies that may surpass abilities of the private sector" to get the mess under control, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said at a news conference late Wednesday.
Whether it's 1,000 barrels of oil or 5,000 leaking Suttles, however, said his company's response will remain the same.
"Clearly there's a difference" in the amount of oil leaking, Suttles told "The Early Show". He added, "In terms of a response, it doesn't change."
In a later interview, Suttles said the company welcomed the offer of U.S. military help.
Speaking Thursday on NBC's "Today," Suttles said BP will take help from anyone to combat the spill. He gave no specifics of what help might be coming.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration said the cost of cleaning up the spill will fall on BP.
White House spokesman Nick Shapiro says President Barack Obama has directed his administration to aggressively confront the oil spill.
She said more than 5,000 barrels a day of sweet crude are discharging into the gulf, not the 1,000 barrels officials had estimated for days since a drilling rig exploded and sank 50 miles off the Louisiana Coast. The new oil spill estimate comes from the federal National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
On Wednesday, Suttles said he did not believe the amount of oil spilling into the water was beyond earlier estimates.
"We're actually applying every resource available to us," he said.
He pointed to a diagram that showed the new leak is upstream from the one officials knew about.
"Due to its location, we do not believe this changes the amount currently believed to be released," he said.
More on the rig explosion:
Crews Start Burning Gulf Oil Slick
Fighting Oil with Fire
Oil Rig Cook Haunted by Nightmares Since Blast
Oil Spill Growing off Coast after Rig Explosion
Oil Spill Continues; Will Robot Fix Leak?
Man-Made Disaster in the Gulf
New Oil-Rig Safety Rules Eyed Before Blast