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BP has almost stopped the flow of oil, will finish a permanent relief well in a couple months

With over 5,000 barrels of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico every day after the oil well leak on April 20, eight senators are contemplating pressing criminal and civil charges against BP. In the mean time, BP is scrambling to find solutions to what could be considered one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history.

BP Plc., Transocean Ltd., and Halliburton Co. attended two separate hearings in Washington D.C. on May 11 and another on May 12. Congress questioned the events that led to the leak and what actions BP is taking to repair the well that killed 11 people, put many fisherman out of work, and caused the spread of oil to surrounding waters threatening wildlife (which prompted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to increase the ban of fishing area in the Gulf from seven percent to 19 percent). 

"We've seen the most catastrophic possibilities and it seems to me like they're flailing around going from one thing to another not really knowing what in fact is necessary to stop this, short of that relief well that will just take way too long," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

BP first tried to funnel the oil to ships using a 98-tonne "top hat" dome on the seabed floor, and due to large hydrate volumes, the dome clogged. More recently, a smaller, one mile long funnel was set in its place was will collect some of the oil approximately 5,000 feet below the surface. A heavy mud mixture will be pumped into the well's blowout preventer in preparation for cement to seal the well permanently. In addition, as Menendez stated above, BP plans to drill a relief well that could take as long as 80 days to construct. 

BP's latest efforts include the riser insertion tube tool (RITT) containment system, and according to BP's official website, it was "put into place in the end of the leaking riser" and "is operational." This tool is collecting 2,000 barrels a day, and produced oil is being stored in ships above surface. The senators question BP's "proven technology and equipment" during this time.

"While I always hope for the best, this is looking like really out-of-control bad," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).

While BP's new developments will help clear some of the damage, new problems arise with problems concerning where the oil will travel to next. Considering BP's history with oil-related accidents, these eight senators will surely ride the company's coattails through the rest of this investigation and certainly through a criminal trial.

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Or not.
By Guspaz on 5/19/2010 5:43:52 PM , Rating: 0
Since pretty much everybody says that the 5000 barrel estimate is incorrect, and some estimate the actual leakage per day could be 70,000 to 100,000 barrels per day, that 2000 barrel per day solution may just be a drop in the bucket when it comes to stemming the tide.

Assuming no real solution comes for 80 days, that could mean up to almost 34 million gallons get dumped.

RE: Or not.
By afkrotch on 5/19/2010 8:05:01 PM , Rating: 2
What gets me is the fact that they aren't already drilling this relief valve or whatever it is that takes 80 days, while a different group of ppl work on fixing the leak.

It'd be stupid if 80 days from now, they are still trying to stop the leak and decide to drill.

RE: Or not.
By kfonda on 5/19/2010 9:48:41 PM , Rating: 3
If you were paying attention (instead of just piling on BP like everyone else)you would know that the first relief well was started on May 2 and they started a second relief well, just in case, on May 17.

RE: Or not.
By afkrotch on 5/19/2010 11:32:33 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is, news like that isn't highly advertised. You have to dig for it, as opposed to all the negatives.

A reason I hate today's media. It always focuses on the negatives.

RE: Or not.
By MrTeal on 5/19/2010 9:57:21 PM , Rating: 4
Considering 100,000 would be 2% of the entire US daily oil production, that seems a bit high.

80 days is also way too long a time frame to get the new well done. Bruce Willis could drill and nuke 3 asteroids in 80 days.

RE: Or not.
By Solandri on 5/20/2010 5:09:05 AM , Rating: 3
If you do some simple calculations with water depth, the depth of the well below the ocean floor, and the composition of the ocean floor, you can estimate the pressure of the oil. You then subtract the pressure of the oil column rising up the well pipe. The differential between that pressure and the water pressure at the well head's depth is the pressure of the oil at the well head relative to the surrounding water.

Now apply that pressure across a pipe the size of the well head and some common engineering formulae for flow in a smooth pipe, and you get about 15,000-25,000 barrels per day. The gamma ray imaging they've done of the blowout preventer shows that it closed, it just didn't close all the way. So the exit is constricted, meaning the real flowrate is going to be lower than this (the formula assumes an unconstricted round smooth pipe). So the 5,000 barrels per day figure is probably in the right ballpark. Call it 5,000-15,000 to be safe.

Based on just the pressure alone, 70,000 to 100,000 is highly unlikely. The ocean floor under the well would have to be made of something like pure iron or lead to generate enough pressure to yield that sort of flowrate.

RE: Or not.
By Solandri on 5/20/2010 6:01:16 AM , Rating: 2
I'll add that the 50,000-100,000 barrels/day figures come from the same calculation. But they erred in that they used the diameter of the pipe where the oil was leaking out of (about 20 inches). They made the assumption that the pipe was this diameter all the way down. In fact, this pipe has very little to do with the flowrate. It's just the pipe sitting atop the BOP. The actual drill pipe becomes smaller in diameter as you go further down, with it becoming about 7-10 inches in diameter at the bottom. Half the diameter is 1/4 the cross sectional area, ergo 100k barrels/day becomes 25k barrels/day.

The 70,000 barrels/day figure comes from a professor who did particle velocity measurements of the oil in the video. I can't say for sure why there's such a large disparity between this method and the pressure method. But BP said that the light sweet crude you get from fields in this area have a lot of gas in them which can bubble and expand in volume once it hits the (relatively) lower pressure water. Like soda fizzing as it exits the bottle. That explanation sounds plausible.

RE: Or not.
By The0ne on 5/20/2010 12:50:09 PM , Rating: 2
I wasn't even aware BP had share their videos to anyone to save them face from people doing calculations and getting better estimates of the leakage :D

But yes, 5000 is a joke to begin with :) They really only need to provide the video, as it appears they have base on your comments. Both calculations are MOST likely missing some variables that have not been taken into account, such as your example for the professor's calculation.

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