New BP Deepwater Oil Video: Leak at Blow Out Preventer

The explosion of Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon on April 20th 2010 has caused a calamity of epic proportions.  The latest video from BP shows the eruption of oil at the Blow Out Preventer (BOP.) The previous video posted was the flow of oil and gas from one of the leaks from the crumpled riser pipe. When you look at both videos you can understand the difficulties of estimating the flow of oil and gas. Estimates range from BP’s 5,000 BPD, to 100,000 BPD, from various experts.  The site SkyTruth.org has an amazing flow of information on all  subjects related to the oil leak, from estimates of quantities, to the flow of the leak into various currents affecting our coast line.

John Amos at Sky Truth, has this to say about the leaking oil:

Why is it important to get this number right? This is about more than just liability, or PR. You can bet that our future response capacity is going to be overhauled and retooled based on this spill. If we low-ball the spill amount and rate, we run the risk of designing an inadequate new spill-response system that is doomed to fail the next time something this big occurs.

A couple of thoughts:

1) Are we really being asked to believe that the spill-response capability of one of the world’s biggest oil companies AND the United States Coast Guard has been totally overwhelmed by a spill of just 210,000 gallons per day? That’s a big spill, but not nearly as big as could reasonably be anticipated. Plenty of wells in the Gulf produce more than that under controlled flow-rate conditions; plenty of tankers plying our waters hold millions of gallons of oil.

2) BP claims the siphon they’ve inserted into the end of the damaged riser pipe is diverting 84, 000 gallons (2,000 barrels) of oil per day from the main leak to a tanker at the surface. That is good news indeed. But it’s worth remembering that for nearly a week BP stated the total spill rate was only 1,000 barrels per day.

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, The National Incident Commander, says that all estimates are just that, estimates.  From an Article in the Mississippi Press he states:

When asked whether an estimate of 5,000 barrels of oil leaking every day is still accurate, Allen stressed that any number reported is simply a best guess.

“We are operating in an environment where there is no human access,” Allen said of the well 5,000 feet down on the seafloor. “I think it has the potential to be catastrophic. I am going to act as if it is. We all should.”

On  The Oil Drum site,   discussion abounds concerning all aspects of the leak. Many posters and independent researchers add links that were helpful for this article.Thanks guys!

UPDATE: 5/22/10

Estimates being revised upward! Sorry for the sarcasm but… what a suprise.  The latest ticker widget from PBS show’s shocking amount of oil released to date:

BP has also released a live feed of the oil leak. See it at PBS
Praying for a solution.

BP Announces Riser Siphon Insertion Successful

BP,  after working around the clock this weekend, and with at least one set back, has managed to insert a 4 inch pipe,encircled with baffels,  into the 21 inch diameter pipe spewing oil and gas one mile beneath the Gulf surface. As of this morning, They’ve estimated the amount of the capture at 1000 barrels a day. This reduces the estimated flow of the leak by one fifth of the total estimated volume of the leak.   At least  it’s something!

The graphic provided by BP shows the process. Their explanation:

How it works

  • The insertion tube is a five foot long steel pipe about four inches in diameter with specially designed rubber baffles. The tube will be inserted into the Horizon’s riser to provide a direct connection.
  • The direct connection, combined with the injection of methanol, will minimize the formation of hydrates that could block the flow of hydrocarbons.
  • The riser insertion tube will be installed about 600 feet from the wellhead.
  • The insertion tube will be connected to a 5,000 foot riser that will convey the hydrocarbons to the Transocean Discoverer Enterprise drillship on the surface.
  • Once in place, oil will flow up into the Enterprise’s riser to the surface.
  • Once at the surface, the hydrocarbons will be processed and oil will be separated from water and gas. The oil will then be temporarily stored before being offloaded and shipped to a designated oil terminal onshore.
  • The Enterprise is capable of processing 15,000 barrels of oil per day and storing 139,000 barrels.

Also reported this morning is that the Gulf Oil Leak has reached the Loop Current which feeds the Gulf Stream and winds around the tip of Florida and close to the Florida Keys.

The National Weather Service Environments Modeling Center graphic shows the flow of the current through the Yucatan peninsula,Northwards, up into the gulf and South, out of the gulf into the Florida current which eventually becomes and fuels the Gulf Stream .

Obviously the discovery of oil in this current is not good news and as the oil is drawn into it, it will sweep through the Florida Keys and around to the East Coast of Florida, then North, up the East coast.   The potential damage is frightening.

The Loop CurrentThe Loop Current, does seem to protect the gulf coast from Tampa Bay South to the Florida Bay, just above the Florida Keys.  According to an MMS Study done in 1996 by dropping “floaters” and tracking these devices  in the Gulf of Mexico, this particular area from Tampa Bay South to Florida Bay, is considered a “forbidden zone” in that no floaters were tracked traveling into this zone.

While being a resident of this general area, it’s hard not to feel somewhat relieved about this,  it truly doesn’t lessen the overall impact and possibility of  destruction of sensitive gulf marine habitat.

The Florida Keys, are not so lucky.  The Florida Current will pick up the oil leak, from the Loop Current and possibly distribute the oil across the reefs already threatened by other environmental pressures. The results are hard to determine but obviously could cause devastating damage.