The Creative Math of BP’s 20, no 40%, Containment

(2PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

BP has claimed that the new 4 inch Pipe inserted into the 21 Riser pipe is siphoning off 20% of the leaking oil. And then they updated that figure to 40% the next day.  

Sounds good on the Morning News, but how did they get those numbers?

I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out the cross-sectional area of a 4″ Pipe vs the cross-sectional area of a 21″ Riser Pipe (minus its reported .812″ wall thickness)

And those calcs ended up: roughly 4.4% of the larger [inner] area would be covered by the smaller [outer] area — BUT all that was just a Red Herring — it turns out due to this BP picture (and its large rubber gaskets)

Looks good on Paper. Could the insert pipe with its many rubber stoppers actually be blocking up to 40% of the leaking oil from the larger pipe?

Yet one wonders, where did that 40% number come from, especially since BP is not all that keen on measuring and monitoring?

First the rest of this “Good News” from the BP Response Site:

BP Response Page:  Riser Insertion Tube Tool

The Riser Insertion Tube Tool involves inserting a four-inch diameter tube into the Horizon’s riser (21-inch diameter pipe) between the well and the broken end of the riser on the seafloor in 5,000 feet of water

The insertion tube would be connected to a new riser to allow hydrocarbons to flow up to the Transocean Discoverer Enterprise drillship located on the surface. The oil will be separated and then safely shipped ashore.


The insertion tube is a five foot long steel pipe about four inches in diameter with specially designed rubber baffles. The tube will be inserted into the Horizon’s riser to provide a direct connection.


The operation is complex and has not been done before at such depths.

BP Photo of the Riser Insertion Tube Tool

And now for the “good spin” Press Releases, about that very “Good News”:

BP says tube is containing one fifth of oil spill

By Clement Sabourin (AFP) – May 17, 2010

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – BP said Monday that about 20 percent of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico is being swallowed up by its insertion tube system and no longer feeding a giant slick off Louisiana.


A tube with a four-inch diameter was inserted by robotic submarines into the main leak and connected via a mile-long pipe to the Discoverer Enterprise, a drill ship on the surface that can process the oil and residual gases safely.

“As we speak we are getting a little over 1,000 barrels of oil a day up through that tube and over the course of today we’ll be trying to increase that rate,” said BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles.

And the next day the News is EVEN Better!

Tube now siphons 40% of oil

May 18, 2010

NEW ORLEANS – BP SAID on Tuesday that a tube inserted into a ruptured oil pipe now is sucking up about 40 per cent of the crude spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, about twice as much as it did one day earlier.

The company said in a statement that its ‘riser insertion tube tool’ is estimated to be collecting and carrying about 2,000 barrels a day of oil to flow up to the drillship Discoverer Enterprise on the surface 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) above.


And some experts have warned that the 5,000 barrels per day estimate by BP vastly underestimate the amount of oil actually spilling into the Gulf, saying the true amount may be 10 times as much.

But wait in both those stories the Percentage Number of Oil Recovered, was based against the initial estimate of the Amount of Oil Leaking daily, 5000 Barrels.

1000 / 5000 = 1/5 = 20%

2000 / 5000 = 2/5 = 40%

But I thought this “baseline” figure of 5000 barrels a day, was a gross underestimate by a Factor of at least 10?

So wouldn’t that change the math to at least:

1000 / 50,000 = 1/50 = 2.0%

2000 / 50,000 = 2/50 = 4.0%

Not such a rosy scenario, when the updated [rough] estimate numbers are used — No wonder BP resisted releasing those Videos.  It makes their overly-optimistic sleight of hand, all that much harder to pull off.  

4% vs 40%    which “success story” would you rather sell?

SO now for the “Bad News” part of this exercise in Creative Math.  What DO independent sources say about what that “baseline” figure, SHOULD BE, for any percentage calculations?

2000 barrels recovered — may look like small potatoes, against truly gigantic gushers.  (Although I admit, that 2000 barrels a day, is much better, than 0 barrels recovered, as was the case for the first 3 weeks.)

Gulf oil leak rate much higher than reported, professor says

A mechanical engineering professor who studied the video of the leak estimates the flow to be 70,000 barrels a day – 14 times higher than BP’s estimate.

By Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times — May 14, 2010

“I spent a couple of hours this afternoon analyzing the video, and the number I get is 70,000 barrels a day coming out of that pipe,” said Steve Wereley, a Purdue University mechanical engineering professor.

Wereley, who has written a book on flow measurement, said his figure was an estimate that could be off by plus or minus 20%.

“BP has said you can’t measure this. I agree you can’t measure [the flow] to a very high degree of precision,” he added. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good estimate. This estimate, I think, is much better than the 5,000 barrels a day they have previously been floating.”

Professor says:

2000 / 70,000 = 2/70 = 2.8%   Recovered ???

Some more on Professor Wereley methodology and error ranges:

Gulf Spill May Far Exceed Official Estimates

NPR – Morning Edition — May 14 2010

by Richard Harris

Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, analyzed videotape of the seafloor gusher using a technique called particle image velocimetry.

A computer program simply tracks particles and calculates how fast they are moving. Wereley put the BP video of the gusher into his computer. He made a few simple calculations and came up with an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill: 70,000 barrels a day – much higher than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.

The method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent.

Given that uncertainty, the amount of material spewing from the pipe could range from 56,000 barrels to 84,000 barrels a day.

2000 / 56,000 = 2/56 = 3.6%  Low-end estimate

2000 / 70,000 = 2/70 = 2.8%  Actual estimate

2000 / 84,000 = 2/84 = 2.4%  High-end estimate

SO BP is actually collecting between 2.4% and 3.6% of the leaking oil,

IF they had bothered to use an ACCURATE baseline measure.

Still other independent experts have weighed in using, other estimate methodologies:

BP / Gulf Oil Spill – Video of Main Leak Supports SkyTruth Estimates

— Nearly 30 Million Gallons Spilled So Far — May 16, 2010

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.

[That has some good descriptions of the other “secondary leaks” as well.]

2000 / (20,000)x(1.2) = 2/24 = 8.3%     Low end, +20% bump for 2nd leak

2000 / (70,000)x(1.2) = 2/84 = 2.3%     High end, +20% bump for 2nd leak

It seems like even Creative Math, can only save this Good News Story, if BP can keep the “official estimate” of total leaking to a mere 5000 Barrels a day.  So far they’ve been fairly successful at that aspect of their Message Management.

Too bad, BP can’t stop Reporters from noticing — they’ve been hardly “open and transparent and helpful” about sharing their data.

(and as that last graphic shows, they probably have their [PR] reasons for keeping their cards close to the vest …)

BP withholds oil spill facts – and government lets it

By Marisa Taylor and Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers — May 18, 2010

BP’s role as the primary source of information has raised questions about whether the government should intervene to gather such data and to publicize it and whether an adequate cleanup can be accomplished without the details of crude oil spreading across the gulf.

Under pressure from senators, BP released four videos Tuesday, but it hasn’t agreed to better monitoring.


Toby Odone, a BP spokesman, said the company is sharing the data with “legitimate interested parties,” which include government agencies and the private companies assisting in the cleanup. When asked whether the information can be released publicly, he responded, “Why would one do it? Any parties with a legitimate interest can have access to it.”


Unlike the response to other past national disasters such as Hurricane Katrina where the government was in charge, BP has been designated as the “responsible party” under federal law and is overseeing much of the response to the spill. The government is acting more as an adviser.


BP also has exercised considerable control over how much is known about the amount of oil gushing into the gulf.

Early on, the government estimated that 210,000 gallons was being released daily. That estimate was based on satellite observations of the water’s surface.

The first look at the oil coming out of the pipe on the sea floor was a video clip that BP released last week in response to demands from reporters and others. It caused a stir because some experts who analyzed it estimated that the amount of oil pouring into the gulf was many times the government’s official estimate.

“Oil in loop can travel as far north as Cape Hatteras [NC] in a few weeks”

No wonder, BP is being so “creative” with “the numbers”.  (and with the “data”)

The less folks know, the better for BP, on this Nightmare of a Story.

Hmmmm?  I wonder if US Sunshine Laws, apply to Foreign Oil Corporations, working in Domestic Waters, when they have “been designated as the ‘responsible party’ under federal law”  ???

If not, they should.

Plain old human decency, and ecologic integrity, kind of depends on “freely disclosed information and data”.

BP should quit playing games, and start sharing ALL the Data it has, to ALL interested Parties.

BP should quit trying to “spin us” — and start trying to “win us” over, as to what really happened, with this horrendous accident, and their SOP timetables, ALL without a shred of a proven contingency plan. In.the.event.that.the.worst.should.happen.

Because PR-control, is really a poor substitute, for an actual “disaster recovery plan”.



Skip to comment form

    • jamess on May 19, 2010 at 18:11

    to get from here, to there …

    Patchwork Quilts OK for Picnics, National Energy Policy NOT SO Much

    by jamess — Tue May 18, 2010 (dKos)

  1. is that they can make money from recovering some oil.

    As for the Gulf Stream –I’ve sailed it from New Orleans to Amsterdam on a big freighter carrying a load of coal.  It’s damn fast-which is why ships rout to Europe that way. By freighter, it’s a grand total of two weeks from New Orleans to Amsterdam.

    And, it’s chock full of life searching for the warm, clear water-pelagics like mahi, sword, and tuna, flying fish, marine mammals-you name it.  

  2. and when we get to monitor our Gulf. They’re allowed to drill in Federal waters, but they don’t own the water.

    It is the most frustrating thing to watch BP calling the shots and dismissing our concerns and our government lets them do this.

    Obama is hoping for a second term…not if that oil comes up the East Coast and messes up some of those fancy boats.

  3. All of the decades worth of destruction for this:

    And, Kenneth Abbott, a project control supervisor and former BP sub-contractor, admonishes that the Atlantis, in the Gulf, poses the same kinds of problems and is even more dangerous:

    NEW ORLEANS — The Deepwater Horizon leak is now leading to safety concerns on another BP rig in the Gulf of Mexico.  

  4. checking the lying liars numbers.

    not that we will ever get real numbers.

    just lots of deadness to see and guesstimate.  

  5. …Vital information presented clearly.

  6. Thank you

    • TMC on May 19, 2010 at 21:43

    BP continues to refuse to allow anyone near the damned leak to get an accurate measure of the flow. Their American CEO was asked this afternoon in the House hearings, if BP would allow the Wood’s Hole scientists to get an accurate measurement since they have the capability. The response was the typical non-answer of someone covering up BP’s ecological crime.

    • RUKind on May 19, 2010 at 21:52

    I may believe half of it.

    Who the fuck is this criminal enterprise to keep independent observers away from its collosal fucking enviro-disaster. The execs should be held in jail until this is cleaned up and paid for. All their assets should be frozen – here, England, and all the tax havens.

    This is criminal. Eleven people died. People should be in jail right NOW!!!

    Where the fuck is the REAL OUTRAGE over this?

    • jamess on May 19, 2010 at 22:04

    also posted on dKos, to lack-luster interest:

    only YOU, can prevent Forest Fires!

    • RiaD on May 19, 2010 at 22:51

    what numbers they are telling Cuba?

    U.S and Cuban officials are holding “working level” talks on how to respond to the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill that is believed to be dumping some 5,000 barrels of crude a day into the Gulf of Mexico, two State Department officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.


    “I can confirm that they are ongoing and going on at the working level,” State Department Spokesman Gordon Duguid told reporters in Washington. “It is incumbent upon us to inform all of our neighbors, not just the islands, but those countries that could be affected by disasters that happen within our territorial waters.”

    Duguid said that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana also delivered a diplomatic note Wednesday informing the Cuban government about the spill and what is known about its projected movement. Washington maintains the Interest Section in Cuba instead of an embassy.

    “We provided background related to the cause of the spill, stressed that stopping the oil leak is our top priority and explained the projected movement of the spill,” Duguid said. “We also communicated the U.S. desire to maintain a clear line of communication with the Cuban government on developments.”

    doesn’t look to me like they’re telling Cuba the truth.

    thanks for your reports jamess

  7. In eras past, this would have been called investigative journalism.  

    • TMC on May 19, 2010 at 23:12
  8. survivors held captive      for 40 hours and intimidated into signing fake papers to be released.  Another good one, BP.

Comments have been disabled.