Since BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded into one of the worst man-made ecological disasters in history, one big question has remained unanswered: Just how big of a mess is it? While BP asserts there's no way to know, marine experts say that if the oil giant would but release more video from its submersible ROVs and provide a little data on the well itself, they could deduce the magnitude of the leak, as well as inform the effort to plug the leaking well pipe.
So far there have been a lot of numbers floated out there concerning the amount of crude spewing into the Gulf; the U.S. Coast Guard continues to repeat the earliest estimate of 5,000 barrels per day, but BP officials told Congress that as many as 60,000 barrels per day could potentially be flowing into the ocean.
BP has already released some video of the largest of the two known leaks along the riser pipe, and that could help researchers make some kind of assessment as to just how bad things are on the seafloor.
Timothy Crane of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory -- an expert on natural sea-floor jets -- told the Guardian a full suite of information on the leaking pipe and some additional video could give him and other researchers all they need to make an informed estimation:
"If they took about 20 or 30 seconds of video with a very specific purpose of measuring flow rates, which means having the ROV [remotely operated vehicle] stay completely still or parked on the bottom, and you got video of the plume close to the leak, and if it was illuminated and with high resolution, then you could get pretty good estimates of the flow rates."
BP has already tried lowering a 100-ton containment dome over the leak, but hydrate crystals formed in the plume and clogged the pipe that was supposed to ferry the oil to tankers on the surface, and that effort was abandoned.
BP now wants to try to fit a smaller tube inside the larger, crushed riser pipe to siphon off the oil flowing from the leak. The idea of clogging the leak with various debris -- the so-called "junk shot" -- has also been considered, as has lowering a smaller containment dome. In an interview with MIT news, oil spill expert (and emeritus professor) Jerome Milgram said ideally engineers would drill a relief well, then use it to pump salt water, concrete and mud into the reservoir that will seal the leaking well. That, unfortunately, could take a while.
Of course, researchers point out, devising a solution to the problem would be a lot easier if BP and the other entities trying to stop the leak had an idea just how big the problem is. While marine and geological experts await better undersea data to work from, NASA has chipped in its overhead resources, mobilizing its Earth Resources-2 (ER-2) aircraft over the Gulf, using the plane's Airborne Visible/Infrared Spectrometer and Cirrus Digital Camera system to collect detailed images of the slick. The space agency has also deployed satellite resources that are tracking the movement of the oil from orbit.
Meanwhile, the Deepwater Horizon Response team wants your ideas as to how to stop the flow of oil.
So how much oil is out there today (05/13/10)?
Do the math:
One barrel = 42 gallons;
26,000 barrels/per day =1,092,000 gallons;
13 days = 25,116,000 gallons!
The question: why isn't the Media mentioning this? Why are they stuck on this figure of 5,000 barrels per day or saying it can't be estimated?
This whole slick is hanging, like the sword of Damocles, over the Gulf Coast just waiting for the winds and currents to change to take it ashore.
The odd thing is a lot people whom I've read who have have been interviewed by the Media and live there (and don't seem to be dependent on fishing or tourist industry for a living) seem to have taken an attitude that 'We need oil" and so this catastrophe is acceptable because the oil-based culture has to be preserved at all costs.
The fact that Deepwater Horizon Response is asking the general public for ideas is not very encouraging.
Why can't they just clamp a f*cking pipe/hose on to the existing line?
What a mess...
Fixing this problem is not an easy one my advice would be to seal the well permanently. this could probably be done with large underwater explosive charges near placed enough to cause a seafloor slide that will pinch off the flow. This will be expensive in terms of cost of explosives I estimate that between 200 to 240 tons of explosives would be needed to accomplish this. The price for that much explosive is minimal compared to the cost of the clean up that mounts with each pasing hour. Long term solution ...stop drilling for oil and use newer technology, wind, wave, solar, magnetic, power generation. The technologies are new and need some work, but the longer we put it off the worse it will be for everyone.
Nothing is going to get done as long as they can maintain the support of the locals, show the accident wasn't their fault, and the costs of their 'recovery efforts’ don’t outweigh the value of the free brand exposure they are attracting.
why not just squeeze the pipe shut like crushing a straw with your fingers.
I'm certainly simplifying by comparing this to a garden hose, but bear with me. To patch a garden hose, you can 1) turn of the water...this is not an option. 2) Clog the hole either with clotter or simply stuffing the hole...possible but unlikely to be successful with the remarkable force of the leak.
How about 3) Poke a number of other holes, all with far less pressure than the initial solitary hole, and then patch them all. Ok, stupid for a garden hose but... Why not alleviate the pressure of the current leak by pre-installing containment domes over points upstream, if you will, of the pipe, and the drill/detonate/somehow puncture the pipe in a controlled manner? This could be done in a couple places, then presumably the uncontrolled leak will be easier to deal with.
Yes, it would be expensive, and yes even a fraction of the initial pressure would still be very difficult to deal with, but it would be much more managable, no?
something doesn't add up.
seconds in a day: 86,400
possible leak amount: 60,000 barrels per day
gallons per barrel: 42
supposed size of pipe: 0.53 meters
gallons per cubic meter: 264
60,000 * 42 = 2,520,000 gallons per day
2,520,000 / 264 = 9545.455 cubic meters per day
9545.455 / 86400 = 0.110479798 cubic meters per second
volume flow rate / cross sectional area = velocity
.110479798/(pi*(.53^2)) = velocity = 0.1252 m/s
.1252 m/s ???
that would mean that it takes 8 seconds for the oil to travel 1 meter in that pipe, but it appears to be moving much faster than that in the video.
You, sir, are one of those scientist, I suspect. sneaky sneaky...
Just looking at that video with the wide flow of oil... it looks like a smoke tube near a magma chamber! The first picture I saw was of a small pipe with a lotta oil and that made sense with the 5k barrels... but these new pics... =O
marcopolo, gas has a much lower density than oil.
A couple of things about the oil spill:
A. Destin - Your math is way off. For 13 days, it would be 14, 196, 000 gallons in total.
B. If BP officials told Congress that 60, 000 barrels per day are flowing into the ocean, then that would mean 40, 320, 000 gallons (according to 16 days) are flowing in to the Gulf of Mexico per day.
C. Say suppose, in response to the speculations that the oil spill is much, much worse than 60, 000 barrels per day, and it is 10 times worse, then there would be 403, 200, 000 gallons in the ocean as of day 16.
D. There are, an estimate of course, 643, 000, 000, 000, 000 (trillion) gallons of water in the Gulf of Mexico. That would make .00006721% of the Gulf covered in oil, right now. This may not seem like a lot, but it is.
Things that worry me, a lot:
A. Why was there no back-up plan in case this rig did exactly what it did. It was supposed to be infallible, but it broke. Shouldn't people have learned their lessons from the Titanic? Or maybe Columbia, a 'regular' space shuttle flight?
B. Why isn't there a law of provision that allows 3rd party, and government funded, scientist who are allowed to do whatever they need and want to do, in areas of disaster. BP shouldn't be able to keep data and footage private. Other scientists should be allowed to go to the area, and place their own ROVs?
C. What is BP really doing to try and clean up the oil spill? What are they doing, honestly? Have they any evidence that they have been trying to clean the oil spill? It would be expensive, but let them go bankrupt. At this point, it's their bad that they messed up (a little to literally). They should be spending all of their time, energy, money (which they have a lot of), and resources to take the oil, clean the Gulf, and prevent more flow.
D. What are the possibilities of cleaning up the oil flow? What methods can be used to stop the flow of oil? If there are a couple of ideas, why doesn't BP react, and now! They obviously don't have a plan, and they need to do something. Who cares if it works or not? If they don't try a method, they'll never be able to stop it.
E. What about the whole terrorist (China, maybe) purposely sabotaging the rig? What about that investigation? IMPORTANT NOTE: Could this have anything to do with the 'accident' of the stock market? (For those who live under a rock, the stock market dipped 900 points, and shot back up 500 points within a matter of minutes [I think 10, to be exact]). I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but both came within a couple of days, and they will cause financial harm. If they are related, it probably clears China's name. (Their economy is too interconnected.) The oil spill is devastating, and if the stock market didn't shoot up 500 points, that could have been destructive as well, causing an even further drop.
That was quite detailed, but I needed to have all the facts presented at once.
The Interested Science Student Who Wants To Know More...
Sorry. I want to make a quick amendment. Today is actually the 27th day into the oil spill. That would make it 68, 040, 000 gallons if the rate is 60, 000 g/d, and 680, 400, 000 if the rate is 600, 000 g/d. The percent of volume in the Gulf would be relatively the same. Destin, it looks like you just mis-typed the 13 days, and meant something, like 23 days. Then your calculations would be right.
The Interested Science Student Who Wants To Know More...
@devd, Just to comment on a few of your points..."Things that worry me, a lot:"
"A. Why was there no back-up plan... Shouldn't people have learned their lessons from the Titanic? Or maybe Columbia, a 'regular' space shuttle flight?"
I don't want to sounds like I'm in huge support of the oil companies here, but they do operate under various government mandated safety and environmental controls. They did have required backup systems installed. It seems that oil independence takes the cake over these issues. The government could have required a relief well be created as a preventative system for just an occurrence, but didn't.
"B. Why isn't there a law of provision that allows 3rd party, and government funded, scientist who are allowed to do whatever..."
There could be such a law, but big oil has alot of power over government decisions. Such a law wouldn't be in the oil companies best interest.
"C. What is BP really doing to try and clean up the oil spill? ... It would be expensive, but let them go bankrupt."
The cleanup for this isn't going to make BP go bankrupt. Even if it costs billions to clean up, they will still turn a profit this year. They will also have no problem raising the cost of their fuel to cover the loss.
"D. What are the possibilities of cleaning up the oil flow? What methods can be used to stop the flow of oil? If there are a couple of ideas, why doesn't BP react, and now!"
This is a harsh environment to work under. The tried and true methods don't work here. There is a reason most of our oceans are unexplored, the water pressure presents a huge technical challenge. They also have to be careful they don't try something that compounds the problem and makes it harder to ultimately fix.
"E. What about the whole terrorist (China, maybe) purposely sabotaging the rig? What about that investigation? IMPORTANT NOTE: Could this have anything to do with the 'accident' of the stock market?..."
Occam's razor - Conspiracy theories are fun, but are usually too unlikely. Looks too much like an accident to me.
Murphy's law - This sort of thing happens eventually when there is an inherent risk and humans are involved.
That is a whole lot of oil to be wasted, as well as the pollution it has caused, not good at all.