BP / Gulf Oil Spill – MODIS Satellite Image – May 10, 2010

Yesterday’s MODIS/Terra satellite image has some of the usual complications – clouds, haze, and turbidity again may be obscuring portions of the slick. Observable slick and sheen covers 4,683 square miles (12,129 km2). Thicker, fresh-looking oil is apparent in the vicinity of the leaking well, and still appears to be entrained in a counterclockwise gyre (a circular current):

See all of the images in our Deepwater Horizon oil spill gallery. Follow us on Twitter, and you’ll know what we know as soon as we know it…

19 replies
  1. environmentalist says:

    John, I was just looking at an image showing an eddy in the warm loop current that appears to me to reach up into the oil slick.

    Is that oil now in the loop currrent and headed to FL? Have you seen any evidence of oil closer to FL and possibly even towards the Keys?

    Thank you.

  2. Elisabeth says:

    How are the dispersant toxins affecting what we see and understand? Are we seeing less oil on the top due to the dispersant material creating a "pea soup" below the surface? I have heard that the "water column is thick with pea sized oil droplets due to the chemical use of dispersants." What does that mean? Are we trading one type of oil slick for another? A submerged unseen and hidden variety that has as great an ecological impact below the surface and that above? What the heck is going on?

  3. John says:

    There has been a persistent eddy or gyre off the north side of the loop current in recent days. We haven't seen any sign yet of surface oil being entrained in the loop current, but our images have been partly obscured by clouds and haze almost every day – so we can't say with certainty that oil is not entering the loop. We also can't see what's happening in the water column, with oil that has not yet surfaced or is partly emulsified (due to the application of dispersant, and to natural processes).

  4. John says:

    Tim – there were originally 3 leaks from the riser pipe; the smallest was capped several days ago, leaving one main leak near the BOP stack that accounts for 80-85% of the oil flow according to BP, and a second much smaller leak further down the riser. Which leak is shown in these images?

  5. Christoph R says:

    video of the leak. ok…..area x velocity = volume per second. Anyone know where we can get a video with a better refresh rate so that we can calculate a good spill volume from the main leak?

  6. Tim says:

    Should be the main leak in the images. Sure looks like multiple fire hoses (one is 3 gallons per second).

  7. Mark says:

    I should also comment that I'm not an expert and a BP expert was quoted yesterday as saying that 'no one can get a good number of the flow looking at that video' (paraphrased). My personal feeling is that this video provides some confirmation that 5k barrels is a dramatic understatement of the flow.

  8. Mark says:

    Christoph: I've done a calculation based on some the video and had a friend do it as well. We've come up with flow rates of 1.5 to 3 ft/sec. BP says the pipe is 12" diameter and represents 85% of the flow. Since it appears a bunch of natural gas is exhausting as well we took 30% off the top for natural gas. A 12" pipe hold .785 cubic feet per foot of pipe. That is 5.9 gallons per foot of pipe or .14 barrels. This would put the total lead rate (of both leaks) at 14,000-28,000 barrels per day or 600k to 1.2m gallons per day.

  9. Christoph R says:

    I can't get anything good from that video. What we really need is the pressure in the pipe after the BOP. BP definitely has that info….but I haven't seen it public anywhere.

    Also, does anyone have a link to a good value of the interior diameter of that pipe? I see at least four different numbers floating around.

  10. John says:

    From NPR today (http://tinyurl.com/2dkk52z):

    "But sophisticated scientific analysis of seafloor video made available Wednesday by the oil company BP shows that the true figure is closer to 70,000 barrels a day, NPR's Richard Harris reports.

    That means the oil spilling into the Gulf has already far exceeded the equivalent of the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker accident in Alaska, which spilled at least 250,000 barrels of oil.

    The analysis was conducted by Steve Werely, an associate professor at Purdue University, using a technique called particle image velocimetry. Harris tells Michele Norris that the method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent. That means the flow could range between 56,000 barrels a day and 84,000 barrels a day.

    Another analysis by Eugene Chiang, a professor of astrophysics at the University of California, Berkeley, calculated the rate of flow to be between 20,000 barrels a day and 100,000 barrels a day."

  11. JByrd says:

    Is there any video of the wellhead itself?
    All I've seen appears to be the riser leak. Since the cementing and BOP failures were at the wellhead, wouldn't the greatest loss be there where the pressure is greatest?

  12. John says:

    I'm waiting to see more definitive calculations of the leak flow rate from a few of the scientists who specialize in this (I'm thinking about folks like the marine geoscientists at Lamont-Doherty, or Scripps, or Woods Hole who study the "black smoker" vents on the deep seafloor; they have experience analyzing video to calculate the flow rates from those vents). But it does seem at this point that the leak video is supporting a much higher rate of flow than the last official estimate of 210,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) per day.

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