That’s 56,000 Barrels A Day…Not 5,000

The researchers used high-resolution video clips of flow from the Deepwater Horizon well to measure volume. Credit: U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

That’s right, new work suggests BP’s estimates of oil flowing from the broken well were an order of magnitude off.  With these revised estimates, the BP Gulf Spill is 10 times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.  The new estimate calculates flow rate from the resolution of the plume in 30 second video grabs with a method called optical plume velocimetry technique (o’ yes I will be dropping that into conversation this weekend over cocktails).  The faster the flow the lower the resolution of the plume in the video.  Interestingly, this technique was developed to measure venting at hydrothermal vents.  Love this quote from the press release

“This is a great example of how basic research that doesn’t seem to have any immediate value suddenly gains huge immediacy for society,” said study researcher Timothy Crone, a marine geophysicist at Columbia University, in a statement.

Dr. M (1720 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

2 comments on “That’s 56,000 Barrels A Day…Not 5,000
  1. LMAO I was on the cruise in 2005 when these things were being tested! They look like frying pans with a grid overlaid on it. It was put in the hydrothermal vent plume and recorded for a certain period of time. The software basically finds a particle and follows it, then calculates how far it went based on the grid and the time it took to travel. Scale it up to gazillions of particles and you get a mean flow rate. Simple and elegant, yet another reason to keep funding hydrothermal vent science!

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