BP / Gulf Oil Spill – Video of Main Leak Supports SkyTruth Estimates – Nearly 30 Million Gallons Spilled So Far

By now everyone has seen this video, released on May 12 by BP, that is reportedly showing the main leak from the damaged well as a result of the fatal Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, fire and ongoing spill:

BP video, reportedly of main leak, released on May 13, 2010.

The main leak is located along the riser pipe about 460′ from the blowout preventer; the pipe is laying on the seafloor. The second, smaller leak is just above the blowout preventer, and apparently accounts for about 15-20% of the total flow from the well. According to statements made by BP to the press on May 3:


The riser is kinked at a 90-degree angle about 5 feet above the blowout preventer, and oil is bleeding from an irregular crack, BP spokesman Bill Salvin said.

A second leak is 460 feet away on a section of the riser that lies on the gulf floor.


A third leak, about 800′ down the riser pipe, was sucessfully capped on May 5 but that operation did not change the rate of flow, which was simply diverted to the other two leak points.

Multiple scientists have reviewed this video; their estimates of the flow range from 840,000 gallons (20,000 barrels) per day to as much as 2.9 million gallons (70,000 barrels) per day. Add another 15-20% to those estimates for the secondary leak, and it’s clear that SkyTruth’s early alarm back on April 27 — that the spill is actually much worse than the official BP and government estimates — was valid, and conservative. By May 1 we had exceeded the official estimate of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster (about 11 million gallons); and by our count, at a rate of at least 1.1 million gallons (26,500 barrels) per day, we’re closing in on 28.9 million gallons (689,000 barrels) spilled so far (it’s Day 26 since the blowout began).

Where is all that oil? We don’t think we’re seeing that much at the surface in our satellite images. But scientists just announced they’ve discovered large underwater plumes of oil. Not all of the oil leaking from the well may be making it to the surface; dispersants, applied directly into the stream of leaking oil, and sprayed on the oil slick at the surface, are driving some of the oil underwater; and natural mechanical action of wind and waves can also cause oil to eventually sink. That may spare the beaches to some extent, but it raises questions about where all that oil is going, where will it ultimately end up, and what are the potential environmental and economic consequences.

10 replies
  1. John says:

    Received via email from L. Jewett today:

    It certainly appears that estimates based on analysis of the BP videos (made by a scientist and engineer at Columbia and Purdue) have confirmed the order of magnitude of your own minimum estimates based on analysis of surface oil.

    And as you have correctly pointed out, having an estimate of the actual flow is critical, since, among other things it dictates the urgency and size of the response — and of responses to future blow outs.

    Your work and that of Dr. MacDonald have been more than amply validated.

    For that you should feel a measure of satisfaction — though it will be difficult to feel really "satisfied' until the flow into the gulf is stopped.

    L Jewett

    PS-Quite frankly, I will never understand why scientists and engineers like you and Dr. MacDonald were not brought in at the very beginning of this disaster to assess the magnitude of the flow (by doing what you have done and also putting instruments in place at the pipe break) and assess the best approach to stop the flow and mitigate the impacts.

  2. Dennis says:

    Dear John and L. Jewett,

    Regarding your comment " I will never understand why scientists and engineers like you and Dr. MacDonald were not brought in at the very beginning of this disaster to assess the magnitude of the flow…"

    Sadly but quite frankly I understand it and it is "SPIN BABY SPIN" — a technique with a proven 90%+ success rate. Unfortunately this is now a better use of time and money (to calculate the spin success) than to calculate the leak rate. They may no longer have real engineers at BP just Spinengineers or Spingineers. And if there is still a remaining PE (Professional Engineer) left at
    BP I think that person should speak the truth now or they should lose their professional accreditation. But I also realize that if you speak the truth you could lose your employment so I understand and respect your reservations against speaking out. Again with these videos from BP the calculation of flow rate is elementary engineering 101. Please gag my 21" dia mouth with a 6" dia pipe. I'll try to barf into the tube. Thanks for listening.

  3. Shark Diver says:

    For BP the equation is simple, the amount of spilled oil is directly related to how much they will ultimately be forced to pay in damages.

    "Pay all legitimate claims," is the current catch phrase tailored by $1500/hr lawyers.

    It is little wonder BP has stymied all previous attempts to review video of the riser leaks and has skillfully managed the media myth of 5000 barrels a day.

    Your slick estimates are not part of the "see no evil" BP oil disaster in the Gulf.

    Well done Sky Truth.

  4. Jerry Critter says:

    I don't doubt for a second that BP knows the leak rate. They have people that can estimate it. They just don't want the public to know.

    Lack of knowledge helps limit their liability.

  5. Jonathan says:

    "Again with these videos from BP the calculation of flow rate is elementary engineering 101."

    I agree that there is spin occuring, but how much of that plume in the video is gas, not oil?

  6. Zurdo says:

    Thank you for the hard work and the perseverance in getting the message out. I sent this and your link to a variety of folks that need to understand the magnitude of this disaster.

    With Gratitude.

  7. Sensory Mom says:

    Thank god for thinkers, and accurate knowledge. Where a lot of the general public absorbs whatever is forced down their throats via "lame" news organizations, I am thankful to have stumbled upon this site. It is, and will be the one and only site I will receive my gulf oil spill information from.. (Unless of course I WANT to believe FOX news, and their take, "Oil flow has diminished greatly, BP successful!!!!" (Yippie!!!!) Does sound nice eh?

  8. Tom Hunter says:

    BP has now shown us that it's capable of sucking up oil from as deep as 5,000 feet. Why oh why don't they suck up those oil bubbles? Can't BP do two things at once? They should suck up that oil while it stays a bubble.

  9. Kenny says:

    Jonthan, Great question. If we want to know how much is gas vs oil, the first step is for BP to release all videos and info they have, especially since their spingineers can not do simple math. The brief video I saw looked like about 75% of the exit area was oil.

    And tonight on the news I heard it is actually a 4" dia 'suction tube' (not a 6" as previously reported) in a 21" dia pipe bleeding at a very high pressure and flow rate. Can anyone say drinking from a fire hydrant with a straw?

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