Last updated on May 23rd, 2011
Updated oil leak estimate during Day 58 (16-June-2010)
The US Government ‘Flow Rate Technical Group’, including James Riley, a professor of mechanical engineering at University of Washington, are now saying that recent high definition measurements have them believing that 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day have been gushing since day 1. The new estimates were made following BP’s recently deployed oil recapture method named ‘Top Cap’ which they initially stated to be capturing nearly 11,000 barrels per day, now upped to 18,000 barrels per day.
Although the US government estimate is dramatically higher than their last estimate, should we believe it? How much worse might it really be?
According to a Washington Post article, BP has now stated that the recapture capacity will be increased to handle 53,000 and then 80,000 barrels per day by the end of July.
Right away this exposes a conspicuous conflict. Why would BP state that they will have 80,000 barrel re-capture capacity while the US government states that the leak is just 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day (average 48,000)? Knowing that the US government nearly always states their statistics to the side that most benefits them, perhaps the oil leak is much larger than even their most recent surged estimate?
Matt Simmons, founder of the Ocean Energy Institute, a think-tank addressing the challenges of U.S. offshore renewable energy, estimates that 120,000 barrels per day have been spewing from the Gulf floor. His estimate refers to data collected by the 208 foot NOAA research vessel, Thomas Jefferson, and he states that as much as 40% of the Gulf of Mexico may be covered with oil beneath the surface. Simmons also believes that the only way to stop the gushing oil is to use a small nuclear device, similar to what Russia has done four times in the past under similar circumstances. If this is not done, he believes oil could gush for decades resulting in unimaginable world wide consequences.
So, who do we believe?
One logical approach is to average the recent statistics.
- US government average is 48,000 bpd
- BP claims recapture capability of 80,000 bpd by end of July
- Matt Simmons states 120,000 bpd
Average oil leaking per day as of 16-June, based on these 3 data points
- 83,000 barrels per day
- 3.5 Million gallons per day
Total oil leaked as of day 58
Including the BP ‘Top Cap’ recapture which began at 11,000 bpd and now 18,000 bpd
- 4.6 Million barrels
- 194 Million gallons
At $77 per barrel, this amounts to $356 Million, which will dwarf the cost of cleanup and damages.
To visualize the amount of oil that is leaking,
The oil leaking each day is equivalent to filling 387 tanker trucks per day (they hold about 9,000 gallons each).
Total oil leaked so far is equivalent to filling 21,583 tanker road-hauler trucks, which if all lined up in a row driving on the freeway, with a one truck length gap between each one for safety (just to make it somewhat real), would reach a length of about 307 miles!
If this were heating oil, it could have heated 242,813 homes during the winter.
If refined to gasoline, it would become nearly 92 Million gallons, which would provide a driving distance of 2.2 Billion miles of a vehicle getting 24 miles per gallon. That is enough to travel 88,707 times around the earth, 4,624 round trips to the moon, or nearly 12 round trips to the sun!
Update 22-June-2010, Day 64 – BP Oil Spill – Leak – Gusher
BP has enabled recapturing of some of the oil and gas that is spewing out of the hole on the Gulf sea floor. They are collecting some, and flaring (burning) some.
It began approximately 7-June with about 11,000 barrels per day. On approximately 15-June it was increased to about 18,000 barrels per day. On approximately 17-June it was increased to about 25,000 barrels per day.
Factoring in this recapture, today’s oil leak statistics are:
- 5,063,000 total barrels leaked
- 212,646,000 total gallons leaked
About 3.5 Million gallons of oil per day continue to gush from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico (about 83,000 barrels), while collecting and flaring about 1 Million gallons (about 25,000 barrels).
Original oil leak estimate during Day 36
To determine a best guess as to the amount of oil that is gushing from the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico from the explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon on 20-Apr-2010, we averaged several of the existing estimates, which themselves range widely.
Initially after the oil disaster, BP estimated the oil leak to be 1,000 barrels per day (42,000 gallons per day). Shortly afterward, the US govt. (Coast Guard) estimated the oil leak to be 5,000 barrels per day (210,000 gallons per day). Other subsequent estimates range from 40,000 to 70,000 barrels per day, the later seemingly carrying some scientific weight whereby a mechanical engineering professor from Purdue University used a method called ‘particle image velocimetry’ to come to his conclusion.
Not knowing exactly who to believe, we must draw our own personal conclusions based on our observations, instincts, and research (which should be true of just about anything in life – don’t believe everything you hear – question what you hear).
I estimated that the average reporting on this oil leak leads me to conclude that perhaps 25,000 barrels are leaking per day or 1,050,000 gallons – call it 1 Million gallons per day.
Assuming that this may be somewhat close to accurate, the total amount that has leaked as of this day, day 36, 26-May-2010, is 900,000 barrels or 37,800,000 gallons of oil. One barrel of oil is equivalent to 42 gallons.
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