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The Oil spill in Gulf of Mexico was the largest accidental spill in the petroleum history. The spill continued for approx 3 months from April 2010 to July 2010. The spill was finally stopped on 15 July by capping the gushing wellhead. At that time the oil was gushing at a rate of 53,000 barrels per day (22, 24,690 gallons per day; 8,400 m3/d) while initially it was 62,000 barrels per day (26,02,450 gallons per day; 9,900 m3/d). This oil gusher (uncontrollable release of oil and gases from a well) was a result of DEEPWATER HORIZON DRILLING RIG EXPLOSION which happened on April 20, 2010. On september 19 , relief well process completed and well was declared effectively dead . relief well is a well which is created to intersect with target well so that specialized liquids can be pumped to stop the spill. The U.S. Government has named BP as the responsible party, and officials have committed to holding the company accountable for all cleanup costs and other damage. After its own internal probe, BP admitted that it made mistakes which led to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
DEEPWATER HORIZON Explosion:
The DEEPWATER HORIZON was a 9 year old semi-submersible mobile offshore drilling unit, a floating, dynamically positioned drilling rig which was made by Hyundai Heavy Industries (South Korea). It was owned by Transocean and was under lease of BP from 2008 to 2013. It was located in the Mississippi Canyon Block 252 of the Gulf of Mexico in the United States about 41 miles (66 km) off the Louisiana coast. At 9:45 CDT, on 20th April, 2010 fire aboard started. It was a sudden explosion. The methane gas escaped from the well and shot up the drill column, burst through several seals and barriers and then exploded. At that time there were 126 crew members. 98 members got out without major injuries, 17 were injured and 11 found missing and assumed to be dead. The fire went on for 36 hours and finally on morning of 22 April, 2010 the DEEPWATER HORIZON sank.
Fig: The Deepwater Horizon
THE INITIAL FINDINGS:
On 22th April coast guard said that oil is leaking at a rate of approx 8000 barrels a day. Two remotely controlled underwater vehicles (ROVs) were sent to cap the well but failed. In fact these attempts resulted in increase in the rate of spill. BP also sent a ROV to the site to asses that whether oil was flowing from the well. On 23 April a ROV found no oil leakage form sunken rig and no oil flowing from the well. But on April 24 coast guard announced that a damaged wellhead is leaking the oil and it is a very serious problem. BP also announced a crude flow rate of approximately 5000 barrels a day. The technique they relied on the most used airplanes and satellites to map the spill area and then extrapolate the total amount spilled. But this method could not account for oil that had not breached the surface. NOAA also announced the rate around 5000 barrels a day and they basis was also quite similar to the technique used by BP.
SPILL RATE AND EXTENT OF SPILL: FLOW RATE:
Initially the flow rate was announced to be 5000 barrels per day. But BP and NOAA did not return requests for comment on how they came up with the original estimate of 5,000 barrels per day. After some days in the start of June, the report of the Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG), a team of scientists from various government agencies and academia assembled by Coast Guard Adm. come up for the Gulf oil spill with definitive figure of 27,000 barrels per day. While according to BP, it was 15,000 barrels per day. The FRTG pegs the amount of oil flowing out of the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon oil well to within a margin of error of 6,000 barrels a day. These estimates were prior to June 3, But due to attempt of BP to cap the leak the flow rate was increased and another estimate was required. The FRTG (Flow Rate Technical Group) team used the same techniques as other researchers to come up with the current estimate. But the FRTG had access to better data than these outside scientists, leading to the huge disparity in estimates. These flow rates were higher than the earlier estimates of 5,000 barrels per day by BP and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but also significantly lower than some unofficial estimates that placed the rate as high as 100,000 barrels per day. Initially, scientists had only the original 30 second video clip that BP posted on May 12 to go on. And most of the results were based upon this clip. The clip consisted of low-resolution video from only one angle and featured a dramatic change in the amount of methane gas spewing out with the oil-making the flow nearly white (due to gases) at first and completely dark (due to oil) at the end. All of these uncertain factors led to the huge variations in estimates. Scientists working for the FRTG had greater access to footage and high-resolution video as well, so they were better able to average the rate over long periods of time.
Mirko Gamba of Stanford University in California also calculated flow rate which was in range 30-90,000 barrels per day. But they complained that they can be more accurate if they would had access to more good quality pictures. Other scientists who analyzed the video clip said that they were always up front about the limitations of estimating the flow. Eugene Chiang at the University of California, Berkeley estimated that 25-100,000 barrels per day are pouring into the Gulf. Steve Wereley, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University used TIV to calculate the particle velocity and came up with flow rate of 70, 000 barrels per day far greater than the initially calculated rate of 5000 barrels a day. He is an expert in these things and being doing the same work since last 20 years. According to him his analysis can have a error of up to 14, 000 barrels only ,so they actual rate must lie between 56,000 to 84, 000 barrels per day. According to the official estimates came in August, the flow rate was 62, 000 barrels per day (last of April, 2010) in the start of spill and it was 53, 000 barrels per day at the time of capping of wellhead (15th July, 2010).
TSI Particle Image Velocimetry:
TSI Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) System Used to Spill the Truth on the BP Oil Leak May 20, 2010-Despite BP's insistence that there is not an effective way of measuring how much oil is actually being leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, many scientists disagree noting a variety of established measurement techniques for such a purpose. Among these scientists is TSI customer Steve Wereley, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, who used TSI s Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) system to assess the rate at which oil is spewing from the Gulf of Mexico with the help of BP s own underwater video footage. According to his analysis, the amount of oil escaping from the sea floor is on the order of 70, 000 barrels of oil per day, far exceeding estimates recently released by BP stating the leak was limited to 5,000 gallons per day. The one most commonly method applied by outside experts, is called as Particle Image Velocimetry, or PIV. This method is commonly used in fluid dynamics labs to measure the flow rate of a liquid gushing out a pipe. uses cameras to track how fast one fluid is spewing into another, in this case oil into seawater. The PIV technique is an optical flow diagnostic based on the interaction of light refraction and scattering in non-homogeneous media. The fluid motion is made visible by tracking the locations
of small tracer particles between two snapshots in time with the help of cameras by tracking how fast one fluid is spewing into another, in this case oil into seawater. The velocity flow field is inferred by plotting the particle displacements versus time. Thus, the PIV technique makes it possible to measure instantaneous velocity flow fields. Scientists combine the speed of the spurting oil with the size of the pipe to estimate the total volume of gushing oil.
Fig:The PIV setup (schematic) in a laboratory The biggest uncertainty confronting scientists has been the ratio of oil to methane in the leaking pipe. How much of this component of natural gas is in the mix is unclear, and the ratio can change dramatically over just a few seconds. Another one is that the conditions are very diverse here in comparison to a laboratory environment.
Because of above mentioned limitations, the group used other methods to complement PIV. For one technique, called mass balancing, a plane carrying NASA's Airborne Visible Infra Red Imaging Spectrometer instrument (AVIRIS) flew over the Gulf and measured how much oil had reached the surface. The AVIRIS mapped how much area the oil spill covers and the thickness of the oil.
VOLUME OF SPILL USING APPEARANCE OF FILM:
The appearance of oil primarily depends on the thickness of the film, so using AVIRIS we know the area of the film and also the appearance of film (and thus the thickness of the film), we can calculate the volume of the spilled oil.
Film thickness Quantity spread
First trace of color
Bright bands of color
Colors begin to dull
Colors are much darker
The results thus found were then combined with estimates of how much oil had already evaporated or been dispersed, burned or skimmed away and they came up with a figure of 12-19,000 barrels per day.
Sound Based Techniques:
Another team of scientists examining the flow rate at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute also released the result. The team directly examined the two
separate leaks using sound-based techniques and a remote-controlled underwater vehicle. The Woods Hole team s estimate is twice what was found by the Flow Rate Technical Group and places the daily rate at as much as 50,000 barrels, or 2 million gallons a day.
The oil spread was initiallty increased by strong southerly winds caused by an impending cold front. By 25th April, the oil covered a area of 580 square miles and by 30th April the spill area was estimated nearly 3, 850 square miles. While on may 17 the size of oil slick was approximated130 miles long and 70 miles wide (9, 100 square miles). The size was increasing continuosly.
Bibiliography: www.wikipedia.org www.fhwa.dot.org www.physorg.com www.aps.org www.telegraph.co.uk etc.