BP Oil Spill Post-Mortem
A team of U.S. scientists from Columbia University has just published a paper about a review of video footage from the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico last Spring and Summer. Using a technique called "optical plume velocimetry" and other analysis techniques, they were able to estimate how much oil escaped the Macondo well between April 20th and the moment the leak was plugged on July 15th (with final confirmation that the well was stable only on September 19th). So what's the magic (tragic?) number?
Oil Spill Flow Rate Estimates
The analysis suggests that during the first part of the spill, before the riser pipe was removed on June 3rd, that the rate was of 56,000 barrels of crude per day. This increased to 68,000 barrels/day after the riser was removed, and the oil leaked at that rate until the well was finally plugged.
All of this adds up to about 4.4 million barrels of crude oil (185 million US gallons) if you substract the 800,000 barrels that BP captured. Otherwise, the total number would be 5.2 million barrels!
Of course, this is an estimate. It's impossible to have a high degree of certainty:
The researchers stress their figures have a large uncertainty of perhaps 20%, but they compare well with the 4.1 million barrels estimate produced by the federal government's Flow Rate Technical Group (again, taking account of the 800,000 barrels recovered by BP).
Remember, the Exxon Valdez super-tanker spilled 260,00 barrels... So the margin of error of the BP spill is bigger than the whole Exxon Valdez disaster. This puts things in perspective.
More on BP Oil Spill
Thick Layer Of Oil Discovered on Gulf of Mexico Seafloor
The 'Static Kill' of BP's Oil Well Appears to be Working (So Far)
BP Could Start 'Static Kill' to Plug Oil Well Tonight
Tropical Storm Bonnie Goes to Early Grave, Oil Cleanup Resumes
Tropical Storm Bonnie Nears Oil Spill, Could Delay Surface Operations by 2 Weeks
BP Relief Well 'days from completion', Oil Seepage Traced to Other Well
BP Continues Integrity Test for Extra 24 Hours, Possible Leak Detected [Updated]
BREAKING: Flow of Oil Halted for First Time Since April [Updated x3]
BP's Anti-Leak Equipment was Leaking...
This Can't Be Good: BP Delays Pressure Tests and Stops Drilling Relief Well
BP Says New 'Top Hat' is About 150 Feet From Oil Leak
Could the Russian Mir Submersible Stop the Oil Leak?