Was the Deepwater Horizon Well Discharge Churn Flow? Implications on the Estimation of the Oil Discharge and Droplet Size Distribution

Michel C. Boufadel, Feng Gao, Lin Zhao, Tamay Özgökmen, Richard Miller, Thomas King, Brian Robinson, Kenneth Lee, Ira Leifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Improved understanding of the character of an uncontrolled pipeline flow is critical for the estimation of the oil discharge and droplet size distribution both essential for evaluating oil spill impact. Measured oil and gas properties at the wellhead of the Macondo255 and detailed numerical modeling suggested that the flow within the pipe could have been “churn,” whereby oil and gas tumble violently within the pipe and is different from the bubbly flow commonly assumed for that release. The churn flow would have produced 5 times the energy loss in the pipe compared to bubbly flow, and its plume would have entrained 35% more water than that of the bubbly flow. Both findings suggest that the oil discharge in Deepwater Horizon could have been overestimated, by up to 200%. The resulting oil droplet size distribution of churn flow is likely smaller than that of bubbly flow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2396-2403
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume45
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 16 2018

Keywords

  • Churn Flow
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Oil Spill
  • Oil and Gas
  • Turbulence Energy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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