Oil cap kept shut despite seepage near broken well
NEW ORLEANS – The federal government Monday allowed BP to keep the cap shut tight on its ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well for another day despite something seeping near the sea floor.
The Obama administration’s point man for the spill, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said early Monday that the company promised to watch closely for signs of new leaks around the mile-deep well, which has stopped gushing oil into the water since the experimental cap was closed Thursday.
Late Sunday, Allen said something was detected seeping near the broken oil well and demanded in a sharply worded letter that BP step up monitoring of the ocean floor. Allen didn’t say what was seeping. White House energy adviser Carol Browner told the CBS “Early Show” seepage was found less than two miles from the well site.
The concern all along — since pressure readings on the cap weren’t as high as expected — was a leak elsewhere in the well bore, meaning the cap may have to be reopened to prevent the environmental disaster from becoming even worse and harder to fix. An underground leak could let oil and gas escape uncontrolled through bedrock and mud.
“When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours. I direct you to provide me a written procedure for opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the well head be confirmed,” Allen said in a letter to BP Managing Director Bob Dudley.
When asked about the seepage and the monitoring, BP spokesman Mark Salt would only say that “we continue to work very closely with all government scientists on this.”
Allen said BP could continue testing the cap, meaning keeping it shut, only if the company continues to meet their obligations to rigorously monitor for any signs that this test could worsen the overall situation.
Browner said Allen’s extension went until Monday afternoon.
“Clearly we want this to end. But we don’t want to enter into a situation where we have uncontrolled leaks all over the Gulf floor,” Browner said Monday ABC’s “Good Morning America”