Don't Come The Raw Prawn With Me, Son !  

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The Guardian has an interview with BP CEO Tony Hayward, who argues "the Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume" - BP boss admits job on the line over Gulf oil spill. Presumably the same line of argument still holds true even when the whole gulf is covered in a foot thick layer of oil - you might even be able to faintly smell the aroma in London by then.

In an bullish interview with the Guardian at BP's crisis centre in Houston, Hayward insisted that the leaked oil and the estimated 400,000 gallons of dispersant that BP has pumped into the sea to try to tackle the slick should be put in context. "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume," he said. ...

The spill began just over three weeks ago when a buildup of gas erupted from a well being drilled by BP in seabed about 1,500 metres (5,000 ft) below sea level. When the gas ignited at the surface, the explosion sunk the rig, the Deepwater Horizon, and 11 workers were killed.

Hayward promised that BP would "fix" the disaster, which is on course to eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill as the biggest US oil spill in history. "We will fix it. I guarantee it. The only question is we do not know when."

NPR has an article speculating the flow of oil is much higher than the 5000 - 20,000 barrels per day numbers commonly being quoted - Gulf Spill Could Be Much Worse Than Believed.
The amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico is far greater than official estimates suggest, according to an exclusive NPR analysis.

At NPR's request, experts analyzed video that BP released Wednesday. Their findings suggest the BP spill is already far larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska, which spilled at least 250,000 barrels of oil.

BP has said repeatedly that there is no reliable way to measure the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by looking at the oil gushing out of the pipe. But scientists say there are actually many proven techniques for doing just that.

Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, analyzed videotape of the seafloor gusher using a technique called particle image velocimetry.

A computer program simply tracks particles and calculates how fast they are moving. Wereley put the BP video of the gusher into his computer. He made a few simple calculations and came up with an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill: 70,000 barrels a day — much higher than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.

The method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent.

Given that uncertainty, the amount of material spewing from the pipe could range from 56,000 barrels to 84,000 barrels a day. It is important to note that it's not all oil. The short video BP released starts out with a shot of methane, but at the end it seems to be mostly oil.

"There's potentially some fluctuation back and forth between methane and oil," Wereley said.

But assuming that the lion's share of the material coming out of the pipe is oil, Wereley's calculations show that the official estimates are too low. "We're talking more than a factor-of-10 difference between what I calculate and the number that's being thrown around," he said.

At least two other calculations support him.

Timothy Crone, an associate research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used another well-accepted method to calculate fluid flows. Crone arrived at a similar figure, but he said he'd like better video from BP before drawing a firm conclusion.

Eugene Chiang, a professor of astrophysics at the University of California, Berkeley, also got a similar answer, using just pencil and paper.

Without even having a sense of scale from the BP video, he correctly deduced that the diameter of the pipe was about 20 inches. And though his calculation is less precise than Wereley's, it is in the same ballpark.

The Cairns Post reports that restrictions on prawn fishing in the gulf have rippled around to Australia, boosting Australian exports (and increasing prices for local prawn eaters) - Boost for Cairns prawns.
THE oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has provided the struggling Far Northern prawn fleet with an unexpected boon after the US yesterday lifted a ban on imports.

The deal-clincher, which followed nearly four years of negotiations between the US and the Australian industry, opens the door to a $4.1 billion market, but consumers at home will be forced to pay more.

The New York Times points to a video of the oil spewing into the waters of the gulf - The Gulf Oil (and Gas) Gusher Up Close.
Just in case you were wondering if it was appropriate to use the phrase “oil spill” to describe the unrelenting seabed gusher in the Macondo prospect 50 miles off the Gulf coast, have a look at the video shot on Tuesday and released today.

There’s more background on the images on The Lede blog, including an explanation of the light and dark variations (resulting from the mix of natural gas and oil).

The video below was shot as the response team lowered the giant containment structure on the main leak. I’ve set the clip to play starting near the end, where you can see the oil boiling up from beneath the walls of the device. In the end, a slush of methane and seawater, called hydrates, clogged the container, putting this idea on the growing scrap heap of solutions.

Reuters reports there were both operational and mechanical failures to blame for the disaster -
On doomed U.S. rig, lapses sparked catastrophe
A cascade of human and mechanical failures likely caused last month's deadly offshore rig explosion and an undersea oil gusher that could be the worst U.S. environmental disaster, according to data gathered by congressional investigators and reviewed by experts. ...

Hours before the explosion, set off by flammable methane gas that surged up the drill pipe, forces were already in motion on the drill deck and beneath the ocean surface that opened the door to catastrophe.

"There was a series of failures -- human and mechanical," said Satish Nagarajaiah, professor in civil and mechanical engineering at Rice University in Houston. "This was the perfect storm."

According to information from BP, Transocean, and rig contractor Halliburton Co gathered by investigators from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, rig workers pressed ahead to put the finishing touches on the well despite potentially alarming test results that signalled a build-up of gas pressure deep in the well's reservoir.

And on the ocean floor, a 450-ton series of valves and pipes called a blowout preventer -- meant to be the last line of defence in the event of a blowout -- was disabled after being significantly modified.

"This catastrophe appears to have been caused by a calamitous series of equipment and operational failures," Representative Henry Waxman, chairman of the committee, said at a hearing on the spill on Wednesday.

The Washington Post reports that predictions of financial calamity for BP appear to be overdone - BP facing a wave of pressure, but not from its balance sheet.
Even though most investors have soured on BP, driving down its stock price by 19 percent and wiping out $36.7 billion of its market value since the explosion, the business remains a behemoth. The company has a market value of $152.6 billion, bolstered by a global marketing network, a lucrative oil venture in Russia, a promising contract to boost production in a giant Iraqi field and scores of other large interests. It remains the largest oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico. Measured by revenue or assets, it is among the world's five largest companies.

Citigroup analysts said stockholders' reactions seem "disproportionate to the likely costs to the company." It noted that punitive damages against Exxon for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil-tanker spill were originally set at $5 billion in 1994 but were reduced on appeal. The company agreed last year to pay less than $1 billion, including interest.

For now, at least, BP's prodigious costs combating the oil spill in the Gulf are outweighed by prodigious profits.

On Monday, BP said it spent $350 million in the first 20 days of the spill response, about $17.5 million a day. It has paid 295 of the 4,700 claims received, for a total of $3.5 million. By contrast, in the first quarter of the year, the London-based oil giant's profits averaged $93 million a day.

The amount of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico has been estimated at 5,000 to 25,000 barrels a day. In the first quarter, BP produced 2.5 million barrels of crude oil a day worldwide -- and it received $71.86 for every barrel.


Several different velocimetry techniques are used at Idaho National Laboratory’s MIR Lab, including Laser Doppler velocimetry (LDV), particle image velocimetry (PIV) and stereoscopic PIV. Learn more about the world's largest flow facility here.

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