Integrity testing of BP plc's blowout Macondo Well in the Gulf of Mexico will continue for another 24 hours, incident commander U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said Monday morning. The decision followed "the detection of a seep near the well and the possible observation of methane over the well" during the weekend after a cap had been installed last week to stop the leak's flow, Allen noted.
Allen said the government's team had questions about BP's monitoring of the well following installation of the cap last Thursday (see Daily GPI, July 16). However, questions were answered Sunday and "ongoing monitoring and full analysis of both the seepage and methane will continue in coordination with the science team," he said.
"I authorized BP to continue the integrity test for another 24 hours, and I restated our firm position that this test will only continue if they continue to meet their obligations to rigorously monitor for any signs that this test could worsen the overall situation. At any moment, we have the ability to return to the safe containment of the oil on the surface until the time the relief well is completed and the well is permanently killed."
A BP representative told Reuters that the seep was about two miles from the well site and was naturally occurring and not related to the blowout, the news service reported Monday afternoon. Also Monday afternoon the government said oil and gas were leaking from the well cap but the it would be left in place for the time being.
"The issue being studied here is whether the Macondo well has a problem with its subsurface casing," explained analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Securities Inc. in a note Monday. "The shut-in well allows pressure to build...which could be pushing oil/hydrocarbons out in the reservoir rock...where it then is finding its way to the surface of the sea floor (and into the ocean)...IF there is a loss of wellbore integrity, opening the cap back up relieves the pressure and the spilling oil would be directed up through the containment system to the surface, rather than being pushed out into the reservoir and into the ocean."
Pressure monitoring of the crippled well had suggested late Friday that the containment system was not holding back all the oil and gas -- that perhaps a leak had sprung elsewhere. BP said Monday it was continuing to monitor the pressure.
"The pressure inside the well recently has been measured at approximately 6,792 pounds per square inch and continues to rise slowly," the company said. "As directed by the national incident commander, extensive monitoring activities are being carried out around the well site. Information gathered during the test is being reviewed with the government agencies, including the Federal Science Team, to determine next steps. Depending upon the results of the test and monitoring activities, these steps may include extending the well integrity test or returning to containment options."
AccuWeather.com said Monday afternoon that rough weather could threaten oil containment efforts in the Gulf. A well developed tropical wave bringing strong winds and rough seas north of Puerto Rico could develop into a tropical system by the weekend, it said.
"Wind shear is currently hindering any tropical storm organization of this system," the forecaster said. "However, as the wave moves swiftly west, this shear will diminish over the next few days. If the wave were to develop into a tropical storm, models predict the system moving into the eastern Gulf of Mexico by the weekend.
"The oil spill area over the Gulf of Mexico could be threatened this weekend by enhanced thunderstorms, rough seas and gusty winds."
Meanwhile, BP shareholders continue to get a bumpy ride as the company's shares soar and plunge according to the latest news; a large gain last Thursday was followed by a loss on Friday. BP shares closed down 3.6% at $35.75 Monday.
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