Particle image velocimetry predicts Gulf oil spill much worse than initial estimates

Using PIV, Steve Wereley at Purdue University has predicted that that the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill is much worse than intial BP estimates.

In a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Oil Flow Rate Analysis – Deepwater Horizons Accident” Steve Wereley, professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN, USA) has predicted that the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill is much worse than initial British Petroleum (BP) estimates.

Using an imaging technique called particle image velocimetry (PIV), Wereley used video obtained from BP to compute the magnitude of oil flowing from the site. According to his presentation, Wereley estimates that between 56,000 and 84,000 barrels a day are currently pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. Doug Suttle, chief operating officer for BP, initially said he thinks the estimate of 1,000 barrels a day is accurate, although BP is now admitting they have underestimated the amount of oil leaking.

To obtain his figures, Wereley computed the average plume velocity of the oil using PIV techniques, multiplied this figure by the cross-sectional area to find the volume flow rate, and then converted this figure to barrels per day.

PIV is an optical method of fluid visualization. It is used to obtain instantaneous velocity measurements and related properties in fluids. By measuring features in the fluid, motion of these features is used to calculate velocity information of the flow being studied.

A live video of the oil leak, provided by BP over Ustream is available on www.ustream.com - search "live oil spill cam".

Posted by Conard Holton
Vision Systems Design

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