The weekend’s euphoria that BP may have stopped the oil leaking into the Gulf has been replaced by the cold reality that the well head may still be leaking.
The US government has now ordered the beleaguered oil company to produce a report on a “detected seep” near the well-head, that could include leaking methane gas.
“Given the current observations from the test, including the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head, monitoring of the seabed is of paramount importance during the test period,” Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said in a letter to BP.
If seeping is confirmed then BP will have to reopen the shut off valve and resume siphoning off oil to the surface, but during the time to set the operation going again – possibly 3 days – oil would be released into the sea.
But it would also be bad news for the company, as it could suggest further damage to the well-head, and signal that the leaking will only be stopped once a relief well is successfully drilled.
But BP continues to say everything was fine. Yesterday evening, a spokesman for BP, John Curry, said: “We’re not seeing any problems at this point, any issues with the shut-in”.
Another sticking point is that if the well is never reopened and connected to ships on the surface, we may never know the true amount of oil that has leaked, something in BP’s interest to keep secret so it reduces its liability.
The new potential blow comes as British Prime Minister David Cameron travels to Washington later today for his first full length bilateral meeting with Barack Obama.
BP will certainly be on the agenda.
Probably top of the list…