Oil from BP’s blown out well is again seeping into the Gulf of Mexico, but this time, more slowly and scientists aren’t convinced the cap that stopped the flow last week is making things worse.
The government said Monday that oil was seeping into the Gulf after days of warning that the experimental cap on the oil well could cause more leaks.
Despite what at first seemed a setback, though, the federal government declared the development insignificant and forged ahead with BP’s plan for finally sealing the hole in the ocean floor.
Ever since the cap was used to bottle up the oil last week, engineers have been watching underwater cameras and monitoring pressure and seismic readings to see whether the well would hold or spring a new leak, perhaps one that could rupture the sea floor and make the disaster even worse.
Small amounts of oil and gas started coming from the cap late Sunday, but “we do not believe it is consequential at this time,” retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.
Also, seepage from the sea floor was detected over the weekend less than two miles away, but Allen said it probably has nothing to do with the well. Oil and gas are known to ooze naturally from fissures in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
At a Monday afternoon briefing in Washington, Allen said BP could keep the cap closed at least another 24 hours, as long as the company remained alert for leaks.
Allen initially said his preference was to pipe oil through the cap to tankers on the surface to reduce the slight chance that the buildup of pressure inside the well would cause a new blowout. That plan would require releasing millions more gallons of oil into the ocean for a few days during the transition – a spectacle BP apparently wants to avoid.
On Monday, Allen budged a bit, saying unless larger problems develop, he’s not inclined to open the cap.
Somewhere between 94 million and 184 million gallons have gushed into the Gulf over the past three months in one of America’s worst environmental crises.