Review of flow rate estimates of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
By: , and 



The unprecedented nature of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill required the application of research methods to estimate the rate at which oil was escaping from the well in the deep sea, its disposition after it entered the ocean, and total reservoir depletion. Here, we review what advances were made in scientific understanding of quantification of flow rates during deep sea oil well blowouts. We assess the degree to which a consensus was reached on the flow rate of the well by comparing in situ observations of the leaking well with a time-dependent flow rate model derived from pressure readings taken after the Macondo well was shut in for the well integrity test. Model simulations also proved valuable for predicting the effect of partial deployment of the blowout preventer rams on flow rate. Taken together, the scientific analyses support flow rates in the range of ~50,000–70,000 barrels/d, perhaps modestly decreasing over the duration of the oil spill, for a total release of ~5.0 million barrels of oil, not accounting for BP's collection effort. By quantifying the amount of oil at different locations (wellhead, ocean surface, and atmosphere), we conclude that just over 2 million barrels of oil (after accounting for containment) and all of the released methane remained in the deep sea. By better understanding the fate of the hydrocarbons, the total discharge can be partitioned into separate components that pose threats to deep sea vs. coastal ecosystems, allowing responders in future events to scale their actions accordingly.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Review of flow rate estimates of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
Series title Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1112139108
Volume 109
Issue 50
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Office of the Director
Description 8 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
First page 20260
Last page 20267
Country United States
State Alabama;Florida;Louisiana;Mississippi;Texas
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
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