Oil Spill

multiplexer has adequately captured my feelings on the matter of what Obama should do about the oil gusher. It amounts to “so long as BP has the best experts and equipment, and appear to be working as hard as they can, let them run the site and support them with whatever they need.” Also, “prepare for an ungodly huge, multi-year cleanup.” Some photo-ops of him frowning at murdered wildlife might help with the political fallout.

Punishment for the guilty comes later. At some level, we’re all culpable for this. You want to talk about true cost of your massive, inefficient vehicle? Take a look. Still, I would like to see at least some of BP’s assets nationalized – and (ideally) someone do some prison time for this. BP externalized the risks – we need to re-internalize them. There’s plenty of precedent for jailing foreigners who endanger American national interests without charge or trial. We’ve been doing it for years. Some folks have even advocated torturing such people. I don’t go that far – but I would like to see words like “manslaughter” and “negligent homicide” bandied about. Perhaps we could also work out a reasonable ratio – like – 100 seagulls to one human life. Let’s crank the importance of animals up from “zero.” Multiplying even a large number by “zero value” is somewhat frustrating.

Anyway, since she covered the fun bit – I thought I would do some math: Operation “circumcise and install condom” appears to be going okay on the oil gusher. Estimates put the raw flow rate of the leak between 5,000 and 60,000 barrels per day. They’re currently capturing from the reservoir tip at a rate something like 1,000 barrels per day – so we’re catching between 2% and 20% of the mess. Hooray for non-zero! There’s also something about “flaps,” “hydrates,” “it’s really freakin’ hard to work at a mile below the surface.” Anyway, right now we’re between 2% and 20% of the way there.

I had no idea what those numbers meant, so I looked around for some online calculators. One barrel is 42 gallons. To get 5,000 * 42 = 210,000 gallons through a 10 inch pipe in 24 hours, you need to push 8,750 gallons through that pipe in an hour. That’s a flow rate of 35 feet per minute, or about 0.4 miles per hour. The upper estimate is 12 times that – or 420 fpm, which is 4.8 mph. Either of those velocities seem eminently reasonable.

technolope could probably tell me more about the sort of pressure differential required to push a fluid as viscus as crude oil out of a 10″ hole, into water at 5,000 foot pressures at that rate. I would be interested in that math. technolope?

Another fun number is that crude oil has fungibly traded at between $70 and $100 per barrel this year. That means that the gusher is gushing $350,000 to $6M per day in precious, precious crude. Don’t think of it as an environmental disaster – think of it as cash washing up on the shore!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.