BP : Let's keep the Astrophysicists busy guessing how many jelly beans in the jar

According to E-How - Many charity functions and parties offer a prize to the person who guesses the correct number of jelly beans in a jar.

Tips to guess how many jelly beans are :
1. Take a look at the jar size. This is important in making a guess.
2. Consider that each gallon jar can hold 930 jelly beans.
3. Pick the jar up (if you are allowed to) and count how many jelly beans there are in one row.

It seems that BP are about to offer America's finest scientists an opportunity to engage in a game of jelly bean guesstimates due to their unwillingness to measure the flow coming from the leaks at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Sound unbelievable? Follow after the fold and I'll explain what is going on here, which, in my personal and professional opinion, shouldn't be.

Saturday, May 15th
BP has resisted entreaties from scientists that they be allowed to use sophisticated instruments at the ocean floor that would give a far more accurate picture of how much oil is really gushing from the well.

“The answer is no to that,” a BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said on Saturday. “We’re not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It’s not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort.”

This is the time line of events so far :

Tuesday, April 20 News broke that an explosion occurred at 11 p.m.

Monday, April 26 underwater robots have discovered at least two leaks that are dumping an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil per day in the sea.

Thursday, April 29 It is discovered that the leak is not spewing the equivalent of 1,000 barrels of oil per day, but rather 5,000.

Saturday, May 1st SkyTruth, a small non-profit, analyzed radar and satellite imagery and estimated that the oil was leaking much faster than the original official estimates. Saturday they revised their estimate to 25,000 barrels/day!

Saturday, May 8th, First containment dome = unsuccessful

Wednesday, May 12, BP release video of one leak and of containment dome being placed over one of the leaks

Friday, May 14, Professor from Purdue University estimates flow rate at 70,000 barrel per day.

Saturday, May 15, first attempt at insertion pipe = unsuccessful

Sunday, May 16, Second Attempt underway at insertion pipe

Update with Timeline from another source :

  • 4/22 - Deepwater Horizon rig sinks; Coast Guard estimates "up to" 8,000 barrels per day (bpd) is leaking - source
  • 4/23 - Coast Guard reports no leaking at all from the damaged well - source
  • 4/24 - Coast Guard reports well is leaking, estimates 1,000 bpd - source
  • 4/25 - BP repeats 1,000 bpd estimate - source
  • 4/27 - 1,000 bpd still the official Coast Guard and BP estimate - source
  • 4/27 - SkyTruth and Dr. Ian MacDonald publish first estimate that spill rate is 20,000 bpd - source
  • 4/28 - NOAA weighs in and raises the official estimate to 5,000 bpd based on aerial surveys "and other factors"; BP disputes this higher estimate - source
  • 4/29 - Coast Guard and NOAA repeat their estimate of 5,000 bpd - source
  • 4/29 - BP's Chief Operating Officer admits new estimate of 5,000 bpd may be correct; "He said there was no way to measure the flow at the seabed and estimates have to come from how much oil makes it to the surface" - source
  • 5/1 - SkyTruth and Dr. Ian MacDonald publish revised estimate of at least 26,500 bpd - source
  • 5/1 - Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen "acknowledged there was no way really to know the extent of the leak" - source - and stated that "Any exact estimate is probably impossible at this time" - source
  • 5/1 - Coast Guard and NOAA cease estimating the rate of the spill.
  • Here are just a few, off the top of my head reasons why knowing exactly how much oil is flowing would help :

    1. To calculate the size of the top hat, piping, boat and heating required to put on top of the leak. Too small and wont handle it, too much and wont be able to heat it to stop the crystals from forming.
    2. To calculate how much dispersant they need to tell their supplier to manufacture, and calculate how much to inject at the bottom of the ocean to obtain maximum effect.
    3. To calculate how much booming will be required and to estimate, knowing the studied underwater currents, how much oil there is and where it is likely to make land fall.
    4. To calculate the size of the pipe, pump, and plug for this threading a needle operation they intend on doing in the next day or so to one of the leaks.
    5. To determine how much pressure they are up against and flow if they are going to attempt the junk shot.

    I am sure there will be countless others.

    Further, I am sure the JASONs, some of America's finest scientists, who have been sent to the site to try to come up with plans B,C,D,E and F will ask as one of their first questions, how much flow are we talking about here?

    Obama Sends Bomb, Mars Experts to Fix BP Oil Spill
    U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu signaled his lack of confidence in the industry experts trying to control BP Plc’s leaking oil well by hand-picking a team of scientists with reputations for creative problem solving.

    Members of the Chu team are credited with accomplishments including designing the first hydrogen bomb, inventing techniques for mining on Mars and finding a way to precisely position biomedical needles.

    Katz’s early work focused on astrophysics, but now he consults on a wide variety of physics puzzles, he said. He is a member of the JASON group, a think tank dedicated to researching complex problems for the U.S. Government, including the Defense Department.

    Chu chose another JASON think tank member, Richard L. Garwin, for his oil spill taskforce. Garwin, 82, a physicist and IBM Fellow Emeritus, is a military-technology and arms-control consultant to the U.S. government. He helped design the first hydrogen bomb in 1951, according to the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    Chu selected one scientist with experience operating on Mars, George Cooper, a civil engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

    As a service to BP, here are the multiple methods which are available to measure flow. Some are obviously inappropriate, but it seems to me that this critical piece of information which will help these scientists and your own engineers, do their job better, would be the flow rate.
    Flow measurement
    Mechanical flow meters
    Piston meter/Rotary piston
    Variable area meter
    Turbine flow meter
    Woltmann meter
    Single jet meter
    Paddle wheel meter
    Multiple jet meter
    Pelton wheel
    Oval gear meter
    Nutating disk meter

    Pressure-based meters
    Venturi meter
    Orifice plate
    Dall tube
    Pitot tube
    Multi-hole pressure probe

    Optical flow meters

    Open channel flow measurement
    Area / velocity
    Dye testing
    Acoustic Doppler velocimetry

    Thermal mass flow meters

    Vortex flowmeters

    Electromagnetic, ultrasonic and coriolis flow meters
    Magnetic flow meters
    Ultrasonic (Doppler, transit time) flow meters
    Coriolis flow meters

    Laser Doppler flow measurement


    BP is using more than 500 specialists from almost 100 organizations and welcomes additional help, Jon Pack, a BP spokesman, said by phone.

    This event has now been ongoing since April 20 or 25 days. Surely the very first thing scientists and engineers need to know would have been how many leaks and how much flow from each. The lack of willingness to measure and provide this flow data from BP, considering that those wishing to help have specifically requested flow data, appears non-cooperative.

    500 experts plus the very best American scientists should not be sent on a problem solving exercise where the first problem they are expected to solve is to guess how many jelly beans in the jar. They need real data, hard numbers, and BP should be trying to meet these requests for information and to stop appearing so evasive.

    The people trying to help deserve better.
    The people of the Gulf Coast deserve better.
    Americans deserve better.

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