What if the out-of-control wellhead on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico was belching out 14 times as much crude oil as the government and BP have been saying? It may not be just a “what if.”
If we’ve really got our best and brightest working on this problem, can’t we at least get an accurate flow rate of what’s coming out of the pipe. I’m no engineer, but that’s fairly straightforward math, isn’t it?
Late Update: TPM Reader MR responds:
I am an engineer, and the math is not hugely difficult - especially with the computer models to help you out. However, the assumptions are not. You have a pipe diameter, and you can do some particle velocity estimates based on the video. But the oil:gas ratios and viscosity of the mixture can throw some pretty big variables in there.
So, for instance the numbers that I heard on NPR 20,000-100,000 barrels/day compared to 5,000 barrels/day estimate from BP and the coast guard - could reflect total volume flow (gas+oil) vs flow of oil only. The professors that NPR were doing velocity estimates - but they didn’t make it clear if they were talking about the flow of the mixture vs the flow of the oil.
BP could get the information - but clearly they seem to think they have other priorities at the moment. Or maybe they are using the data, or their low-balling to keep the disaster looking less disastrous. I can’t tell you that. But I can tell you that there are plenty of variables that mean you’d have to spend some time at the well head taking measurements in order to get the real number.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.