# The gulf oil leak

1. May 6, 2010

### Tregg Smith

Can someone explain why with the tremendous pressure of- is it 5000 ft. of water-pushing down that oil can still leak out? I guess the oil pressure must be greater. How do you calculate the water pressure at that depth on the broken pipe. If the pipe is say one foot diameter would you figure a one foot column of water?

2. May 6, 2010

### future_think

I am thinking since the water pressure is uniform the pressure isn't just pushing in 1 direction. Oil is lighter then water thus would exude a tendency to float. Also it is likely warmer then the water it is hitting.

The water pressure at the depth of 5000 ft is found by this formula found here. http://www.csgnetwork.com/h2odenscalc.html

Is there a depth of water that you could submerge a surfboard in which it wouldn't return to the surface?

3. May 6, 2010

### Staff: Mentor

Water pressure us pushing down on the pipe but it is also pushing down on the oil reservoir so ultimately this pressure is irrelevant. Whatever additional pressure exists due to the gas buildup (I'm unclear on the specifics of that) is what causes the blowout.

Consider a balloon: with 14 PSI of pressure pushing in at the nozzle, how can the 0.5 psi or so of internal pressure cause air to escape?

4. May 6, 2010

### Bob S

Yes. It will be crushed. and the buoyancy will depend on the buoyancy of the crushed components. Even nuclear submarines (USS Thresher) have been crushed by exceeding their designed depth.

Bob S

5. May 6, 2010

### mgb_phys

The pressure in the oil reservoir is high enough that not only can it leak out - but when you actually drill into it the oil will reach the rig at the surface still with a lot of pressure. Oil rigs don't (generally) pump oil out of the reservoirs, it is squirted out by it's own enormous pressure.

Remember also in this case reservoir is under a couple of 1000ft of rock below the 5000ft deep sea bed - the oil is under much higher pressure than 5000fsw.

The pressure simply comes from the gas that has been created by the oil forming over millions of years being trapped under an impermeable rock layer. Sometimes the rock cap isn't quite impermeable enough and the gas escapes leaving the oil unpressurized. Generally for deep wells it isn't worth extracting in this case

6. May 6, 2010

### pallidin

Now THAT makes sense. I was wondering the same as the OP.

7. May 6, 2010

### xxChrisxx

EDIT: Just realised you said this doesn't happen in all cases. Time for a quick rewrite :P

In the unpressurised cases artificial lift systems are used. Such as pumping down high pressure fluids, or using big electric pumps.

Last edited: May 6, 2010
8. May 8, 2010

### RosieR

I thought about this the other day and I just assumed that oil was slippery, so it would slip past the water thingies. Wow, I guess there is more to it.

Rosie.

9. May 9, 2010

### ruko

Internal pressure mostly due to the elasticity of the balloon material.

10. May 9, 2010

### Staff: Mentor

I never said it wasn't!

...however, you do need to be more specific. While I know what you meant, it is also perfectly correct to say the internal pressure inside a balloon is mostly due to the atmosphere compressing the balloon.

I'm was being intentionally coy there and I'm doing it again here because I want people to realize there are two different ways of measuring/expressing the pressure.

11. May 9, 2010

### rcgldr

Even if the oil pressure was lower that the water pressure before the drill opening was made, water would pore into the opening until the pressure was the same, then the oil, being lower density, and assuming it to be as nearly incompressable as water, would float upwards towards the water surface because of buoyancy.

12. May 10, 2010

### chiefsss

Without having much information to go on, I was trying to come up with a solution to this problem...

Does anyone know how large the opening is and how thick the edge is on the pipe and what material it's made from? Is the top/opening smooth or irregular?

Just as a brainstorm idea, could they place a "super-strong" magnet on top of the opening (if they could get one a mile down)? or is the pressure too great? (again I don't have any info on this stuff with regard to the dimensions/quantities/forces/etc.)

13. May 10, 2010

### ruko

I just attempted to answer your question. I did not infer you said anything! I think it is not perfectly correct to say that the pressure that forces air out of a balloon is mostly due to ambient air pressure compressing the balloon. I think a combination of both with the much larger edge going to balloon material memory. But I could be wrong.

14. May 12, 2010

### chiefsss

...not the pipe itself, but the top of the BOP - if it was thick enough (enough magnetic surface area to create a good enough strong magnetic bond), could they use a huge super-magnet to cap it at the BOP (after cutting off the damaged pipe)?

15. May 12, 2010

### mgb_phys

Normally the oil isn't in a big void like an underground tank. It's diffused through the rock - like water in quicksand. The big difficultly is often to get the oil out of the rock.

16. May 12, 2010

### mikeph

Surely the pressures of the two liquids will quickly equalise if they are in contact, and the less dense liquid (oil) will rise. The shapes of the pipes or anything shouldn't affect the hydrostatics...?

17. May 12, 2010

### Staff: Mentor

I didn't say the ambient air pressure is what forces air out of the balloon, I just said most of the pressure in the balloon is due to ambient air pressure. I see this isn't making any sense to you, so I'll explain further:

--Atmospheric pressure is 14.7 psi.
--The pressure generated by the elastic of the balloon may be around 0.5 psi.
--Total pressure inside the balloon: 14.7+.5=15.2psi.
--Fraction of the air pressure inside the balloon due to atmospheric pressure: 14.7/15.2=97%
--Pressure trying to push air in the throat of the balloon: 14.7psi
--Pressure trying to push air out the throat of the balloon: 15.2psi

18. May 12, 2010

### Staff: Mentor

The pressure equalizes as the oil accelerates through the orifice. The delta-P between inside and outside determines the speed the oil travels through the orifice and the size of the orifice times the speed equals the flow rate.

19. May 13, 2010

### mcgiiver

5000 ft x 65 lbs/ ft^3 / 144 = 2257 psi due to weight of sea water, Well pressure must be higher than that to cause flow.

20. May 15, 2010

### stewartcs

The BOP has an 18-3/4" diameter bore.

CS