The efforts of a researcher in West Virginia University’s College of Engineering and Mineral Resources were confirmed when the Department of Energy released its report on the amount of oil spilled during last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. Shahab Mohaghegh, a professor in CEMR’s Department of Petroleum and Natural Gas, worked as part of the Flow Rate Technology Group’s Nodal Analysis Team. The team, led by Dr. George Guthrie of the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, consisted of subteams from five DOE national laboratories.

According to their estimates, 53,000 barrels per day were escaping as a result of the offshore drilling rig that exploded on April 20, 2010. For three months, the resulting leak continued to gush, making it the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

“It was a heroic process,” said Mohaghegh. “We had 15 people working on it around the clock.”

The Nodal Analysis Team used input from reservoir modeling (including pressure, temperature, fluid composition and properties over time) and pressure and temperature conditions at the leak points on the sea floor, along with details of the geometries of the well, blowout preventer, and riser to calculate fluid compositions, properties, and fluxes from both before and after riser removal. According to Mohaghegh, the team used both conventional and advanced modeling techniques, based on artificial intelligence and data mining.

For his efforts, Mohaghegh was awarded $55,600 from the URS Corp. for “Gulf Oil Spill Response Effort Support.” The final numbers released by the Department of Energy were very close to those calculated by the research team.


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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, CEMR