Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lies, Lies, and More Lies: Hey BP, Does It Pay to Not Tell the Truth When So Many People Are on to You?

As indicated in a previous post regarding the long-nosed press releases coming out of BP's office of public relations, we are learning today from various sources that the oil gushing out of BP’s busted oil well may be spewing at a rate that substantially dwarfs estimates released by British Petroleum media relations. While BP continues to strain its already heavily overworked political muscle to various lesser known papers in order to once again announce how much progress it is making with the capping of the oil, more and more analyses from experts contesting BP's numbers are surfacing. Yesterday, June 6, 2010, an expert on NPR on discussed his own calculations which amount to flow estimates of over 70.5 million gallons of oil having thus far been released into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico since April 20.

Previous estimates, based on BP's own publicly released statements have amounted to a spill of approximately at 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons per day. However, Steve Wererly, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University has created a program that tracks the particle flow of material from the busted pipe, and has calculated that the open flow of particles released from the well approximates 70,000 barrels or 2.9 million gallons a day, within an accuracy of 20%. Although a fairly large margin of error, with a deviation between 56,000 barrels (2.4 million gallons a day) and 84,000 barrels (3.5 million gallons per day), it is still significantly higher than any of the estimates released by BP. Indeed, even using Wererly's most conservative calculations, the total gallons spilled so far comes to 115,000,000 gallons, which, if true would make it nearly twice as large as the 1978 Amoco Spill, which is officially the world's largest oil disaster ever recorded at 68.7 million gallons.

Wereley, who is an expert in the field of fluid mechanics, and has co-written a book called Particle Image Velocimetry: A Practical Guide (Experimental Fluid Mechanics). In other words, he's no dummy, and since he does not have nearly as much to gain by down playing the amount of damage the spill is causing as does BP, it may serve the public well to consider his expert opinion [reported to the Los Angeles Times]:

“I spent a couple of hours this afternoon analyzing the video, and the number I get [using my program] is 70,000 barrels a day coming out of that pipe. BP has said you can't measure this. I agree you can't measure [the flow] to a very high degree of precision, but that doesn't mean you can't get a good estimate. This estimate, I think, is much better than the 5,000 barrels a day they have previously been floating.”

Wereley’s estimate is based upon a video released by BP on Wednesday, May 12 which shows the flow of only one of two separate leaks--another bit of information also not being widely publicized. According to Werely, although the leak certainly shows methane being released in addition to the oil, the oil is by and large the most prominent material being ejected.

It is important to note to that Steven Wereley is not the only expert calculation slowly filtering out into the ether. NPR recently reported an estimate by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory scientist, Timothy Crone, of at least 50,000 barrels or 2.1 million gallons per day. Another legitimate voice in the field, Astrophysicist, Eugene Chaing calculates the volume at anywhere from 20,000 and 100,000 barrels, or 840,000 to 4.2 million gallons per day.

Previously, when Florida State University professor of oceanography, Ian MacDonald, publicly questioned the 5,000 barrel (210,000 gallon) a day estimate purported by BP official statements, he was harshly criticized. It may turn out, however that even his estimate of at least 20,000 barrels per day may prove conservative. I strongly encourage you to watch a video of his interview that took place on May 21, 2010 (see above).

If anyone has any creative ideas for showing how ugly this mess has become, there is a movement to create and share a new corporate identity for BP.

1 comment:

htomfields said...

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.