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Oil FAIL: Oil flow rate not 5,000 barrels a day, but -- sweet Jeebus -- 95,000 barrels a day

As it turns out, BP/Obama weren't fuzzy on the flow rate from the Deepwater Horizon oil leak because the volume was embarassingly small. Quite the contrary. Via McClatchy, big whoops.

The latest video footage of the leaking Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico show that oil is escaping at the rate of 95,000 barrels — 4 million gallons — a day, nearly 20 times greater than the 5,000 barrel a day estimate BP and government scientists have been citing for nearly three weeks, an engineering professor told a congressional hearing Wednesday.

Well. I guess that would explain why the Coast Guard, which apparently works for BP now, is preventing filming in the Gulf.

The figure of 5,000 barrels a day or 210,000 gallons that BP and the federal government have been using for weeks is based on satellite observations of the surface. But NASA’s best satellite-based instruments can’t see deep into the waters of the Gulf, where much of the oil from the gusher 5,000 feet below the surface seems to be floating.

Yeah, that's what Obama said, but he was lying. In fact, we have the technology for this at Woods Hole; we've been using it to measure hot water vents on the ocean floor.

Steve Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, earlier this month made simple calculations from a video BP released on May 12 and came up with a flow of 70,000 barrels a day, NPR reported last week. Werely on Wednesday told a House Commerce and Energy Committee subcommittee that his calculations of two leaks that show up on videos BP released on Tuesday showed 70,000 barrels from one leak and 25,000 from the other.

Oh. Two leaks.

He said the calculation could be off by 20 percent — meaning the spill could range from between 76,000 to 104,000 barrels a day. But Wereley said he would need to see videos that were not compressed and showed the flow over a longer period so that it would be possible to get a better calculation of the mix of oil and gas from the wellhead.

Hey, I've got an idea! Maybe the videos Werely needs are on display in the White House briefing room, and somehow nobody mentioned them!

The bottom line -- and I know this will surprise you -- is that the administration is and has been totally out of its depth. The estimate of flow rate they've been pushing is off by a factor of twenty, and the suckitude is fully on display:

Federal officials testified in hearings on Tuesday that they were putting together a crack team to get to the bottom of big the spill really is. That effort comes a month after the April 20 explosion that triggered the unprecedented oil spill in deep waters of the United States. Experts say knowing that amount is crucial for efforts to cap the broken wellhead and to monitor and clean up the oil.

A month? And now they're putting together a "crack team"? To determine a flow rate we should have been able to figure out from Day One, if BP were sharing their data, instead of acting like a sovereign state?

Heck of a job, El Presidente!

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Submitted by jawbone on

oil spills. Apparently, BP isn't all that interested...or something. Article discusses its status for use as of May 14th.

The waiting game continues despite what appears to be a well-established resume for OSE II. The company says it has been used for years by the military, even providing an invoice showing it was delivered to Belle Chasse Naval Air Station as far back as 1995. It has been on the EPA NCP list since 1996, essentially meaning it is preapproved for oil spill treatment by the government.

Perhaps most surprising is that OSE II has been used by BP before in the early 2000's to clean up a spill in Trinidad and Tobago and again for a spill in Greece.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection also told 9News it has been on their list of approved groundwater cleanup products since 2004



One question some have raised is whether OSE II can be used over open waters, rather than just right along the coast. Pedigo says they just need the opportunity to show it can work.

Pedigo added, "We've cleaned up numerous oil spills and fuel spills in the ocean but none this big cause no one's ever given us the chance."

Submitted by hipparchia on

ose ii is applied at a rate of 1 gallon ose for every 50 gallons of spilled oil, and that's if you apply it directly to the oil slick, and it's also if the oil slick is 2 inches thick or less.

also, the directions are to mix the ose concentrate in such a way that you end up with one gallon of solution for every gallon of oil, and spray that on the oil slick.

at that rate, using the handy-dandy widget, it would take somewhere between 100,000 - 2,500,000 gallons of ose concentrate [which would translate to somewhere between 6 million and 124 million gallons of mixed solution to be applied], depending on how much oil is really escaping.

is there anywhere near this much ose ii in existence?

ose ii is described as being a mix of nutrients, biosurfactants, and enzymes. to get biosurfactants and enzymes, you have to grow the microbes that produce these, think brewing beer, it's much the same process [ie, not exactly quick], and them you have to separate out the components that you want [just the enzymes and surfactants], also not necessarily a quick, or cheap, process. then you add extra nutrients.

there are issues with those extra nutrients, because if for some reason the ose doesn't get mixed with the oil then we already have plenty of pollution in the gulf from too much nutrients carried there by the mississippi river.

still, i'd like to see them try it.

Submitted by jawbone on

I have no idea.

I did read today that Wayne Madsen has reported Navy subs (or singular?) had encountered a huge blob of frozen oil at the 3-4000 foot depth.

I'm waiting for some corroboration. But it does sound like a great idea for a horror or scifi horror film....

Submitted by lambert on

Wayne Madsen?

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

when people are going to get sick of all this and just impeach Obama.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

Gives him a blow job in the Oval Office!

Ya know, if it would get that sociopathic creep impeached, I'd volunteer. Ask not what your country can do for you, yada yada yada.


okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

First, there is something off in the barrels/gallons conversion. 95,000 barrels times 47 gallons per barrel equals 4.5 million, not 4 million.
But say 2 leaks, one at 70,000barrels/day one at 20,000barrels/day. That is a flow rate of 2300 gallons per minute (gpm) and 650gpm respectively. This is not implausible.

Given a flow rate for the larger leak of 2300gpm and a diameter of the hole/pipe of say 12-20 inches (this is a reasonable diameter for a directional boring), using this handy calculator gives a fluid velocity of around 1.6-4.5 mph, or about 70-200cm/sec . The scientists in this story calculated 100cm/sec, which works out to a borehole of 16 inches.

Those velocities all seem pretty reasonable.

So for argument sake, let's say that BP is right. 5000barrels per day is 160gpm. This works out to 0.3 miles/hour or 13cm/second, even using the smaller diameter of 12inches. I don't think this is plausible.

I'm inclined to agree with the larger estimate.

Submitted by hipparchia on

- 42 gal/bbl, not 47

- riser pipe od is 21" [i haven't seen anybody state what the borehole size is]

- various speculations on how much of what is coming out is oil, how much is gas [i haven't seen much in the way of hard numbers though]

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

I had used one conversion I got off the web of 47 gallons, but you are right that apparently it is 42.

Thanks for the diameter. I had looked all over for that, however you are right, that is the riser diameter, the actual borehole is likely at least 5-6" smaller diameter to give sufficient annular space for the flow of drilling fluids and cuttings. So probably a borehole of about 14-16".

I'm not sure exactly how they construct these wells, but I have a fair idea as the general concept is not much different from what I do.