- Number 328 |
- January 10, 2011
NETL researchers aided Gulf spill estimate efforts
Because an accurate estimate
of the leak rate of oil from the
BP Macondo MC252 Well was
needed to set the level of
response in the Gulf of Mexico.
Because an accurate estimate of the leak rate of oil from the BP Macondo MC252 Well was needed to set the level of response in the Gulf of Mexico, and because there was widespread doubt about early leak rate estimates, the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Incident Commander (NIC) established a Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG) to generate an independent scientific estimate of the oil leak rate. The FRTG was led by Dr. Marcia McNutt (USGS Director) and consisted of four teams using distinct approaches to estimate flow rate from the Macondo well: the Plume Analysis Team, the Reservoir Analysis Team, the Nodal Analysis Team, and the Mass-Balance Team. These teams comprised experts from government (including national laboratories), academia, and industry.
NETL researchers contributed to the efforts of two FRTG teams: Dr. Frank Shaffer led a team of NETL researchers who contributed to the Plume Analysis Team estimates by applying an image analysis technique called Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) to estimate the leak rate from submarine videos of the oil leak jets 5000 ft below the sea surface. Early PIV-based estimates by this NETL team predicted the flow rate to be 60,000 barrels per day (bpd), in very close agreement with the later government estimate (55,000 bpd) that considered estimates from all of the approaches, including directs measurements at from the well’s blowout preventer (BOP). Dr. Grant Bromhal led a team of NETL researchers who contributed to the Nodal Analysis Team estimates. The Nodal Analysis Team used several approaches to simulate flow restrictions in the reservoir and wellbore system in order to estimate overall flow rate from the well. The Nodal Analysis Team conducted extensive, detailed evaluations of the uncertainties in various properties of the reservoir, wellbore system, and fluids and how these uncertainties propagated to estimates of flow rate. The Nodal Analysis Team was led by Dr. George Guthrie (NETL) and consisted of subteams from five DOE national laboratories (LANL, LBNL, LLNL, NETL, and PNNL). Teams at the other DOE national labs were led by: Dr. Phil Gauglitz (PNNL), Dr. Curt Oldenburg (LBNL), Dr. Rajesh Pawar (LANL), and Dr. Todd Weisgraber (LLNL).Dr. McNutt recently presented Bromhal, Guthrie, and Shaffer and the NETL teams (along with Gauglitz, Oldenburg, Pawar, and Weisgraber) with the USGS Director’s Award for Exemplary Service to the Nation, in recognition of their contributions during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response. Director McNutt stated that their “answers and insights helped guide important decisions and made a very real and positive difference during the response to this unprecedented oil spill event.” Director McNutt specifically recognized their ability to “work together as true teams, irrespective of organizational affiliations, setting aside personal and professional lives to tackle these challenges.”
[[Linda Morton, 304.285.4543