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NJIT’s Michel Boufadel, professor of civil and environmental engineering, co-authored a paper recently accepted by Geographical Research Letters, an American Geophysical Union (AGU) publication.

The paper, “Was the Deepwater Horizon Well Discharge Churn Flow? Implications on the estimation of the oil discharge and droplet size distribution,” looks to improve the understanding of the character of an uncontrolled pipeline flow. This is critical for the estimation of the oil discharge and droplet size distribution, both essential for evaluating oil spill impact.

The NJIT team, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Miami, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and a member of the U.S. government Flow Rate Technical Group, revisited uncontrolled flow assumptions made from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“This investigation required usage of the high power computing cluster at NJIT for a duration of six months. I am thankful for my Ph.D. student, Feng Gao, who dedicated major effort to this endeavor,” said Boufadel.

The team found indications that oil and gas did not co-flow in the pipe, as previously assumed. Rather, the oil and gas tumbled within the pipe. This regime is technically described as "churn flow" due to the tumbling of oil and gas within the pipe prior to flowing out.

The implications of this discovery are far reaching in identifying how to effectively diagnose and treat potential underwater blowouts.

For the full text of the paper, visit the AGU website by clicking “Learn More” below.