9 June 2010

How Much Oil Is Really Leaking? Ask These Two People.

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Ira Leifer (ctsy UC Santa Barbara

Ira Leifer and Steve Wereley. That’s who to ask.

Leifer is a scientist at the Marine Sciences Institute at the Univ. of California Santa Barbara. He is an acknowledged expert on oil in the ocean. President Obama appointed both to the Department of Interior’s Flow Rate Technical Group. (Charged with accurately estimating the leaks magnitude.)

Steve Wereley

Steve Werley is a coauthor of a text book about a scientific technique to estimate very accurately the flow rate of just such a gusher. He is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue.

So what do these two people think about the statement from BP that they are getting most of the oil now with the top kill apparatus?

They apparently find it laughable.

You do not have to be an expert to see why. The video actually tells the story. There is a huge amount of oil coming out of the broken well. Yes BP is siphoning about 15,000 barrels a day of that. Here is what you may not know.

When BP attempted this latest fix, they had to cut the broken riser pipe. It was bent severely, like a garden hose with a big kink in it. That kink was actually slowing down the gusher of oil. Cutting it off was a last resort.

Cut it they did.

This has INCREASED the flow. Leifer and Wereley think it has very likely increased the flow significantly and perhaps more than doubled it! Leifer bases his conclusions on the greatly increased flexing of the piping.

It may be unscientific but go do your own experiment. Put a 1/3 kink in your garden hose and measure the flow with the tap wide open. Now remove the kink it and measure it again.

Leifer was quoted Tuesday as saying it was at least 60,000 barrels a day and probably more than that. Both of them have complained the BP has been very slow to cooperate with the group to give them the data they need to get an answer. Since BP’s eventual fine will be based most likely on how much has leaked, it makes you come to some instant conclusions about why.

Wereley has told Congress that Particle Image Velocimetry can have an accuracy of 99% if used correctly. They need good HD video of the leak, which according to press reports tonight they claim they haven’t gotten.

Tryng to find decent information about the flow rate on a government web site is nearly impossible. I did find this quote in a press release:

The only range of flow rates that is consistent with all 3 of the methods considered by the FRTG is 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day. Higher flow rates are consistent with the data considered by one of the teams.

When you read the rest of the press release, you quickly realize that this is double speak. The key here is the last line of that quote. The most accurate estimate is from that team! All they did was take the lower bound numbers from all three groups and reported the flow rate as the numbers that fit all three.

The release is dated May 27th and updated June 7.  The press release claims that a web site will be set up with data from the Flow Rate Group will be set up. If it’s there, I can’t find it.

One thing for sure. Two totally independent scientists who are expert at this very problem are now saying most likely it’s between 60 and 100,000 barrels a day. BP is getting 15,000 of that. That is 25% at most.

I heard numerous news reports today quoting BP as saying they are getting a majority of the oil leaking now. BP was pretty successful today in getting that statement quoted widely.

All you have to do is look at the video to see that this is extremely unlikely. A late report on the AP wire tonight has a direct quote from Wereley. It speaks for itself.

In an interview with The Associated Press, team member and Purdue University engineering professor Steve Wereley said it was a “reasonable conclusion” but not the team’s final one to say that the daily flow rate is, in fact, somewhere between 798,000 gallons and 1.8 million gallons.

“BP is claiming they’re capturing the majority of the flow, which I think is going to be proven wrong in short order,” Wereley said. “Why don’t they show the American public the before-and-after shots?”

He added: “It’s strictly an estimation, and they are portraying it as fact.”

Lets do the “before-and-after” the best we can. Here is a video from May 12th.

…and Video from Tuesday June 8th.

Yes, I know we do not know the relative size of the plume between these two images. They still show without doubt a LOT of oil is coming out. Wereley thinks that 5,000 barrels a day is coming from a small leak nearby, by itself.

Give the scientists the ability to measure it and they will tell us how much is really leaking. The technology exists to do that.

Until then, I think I’ll trust Liefer and Wereley on this one.