Seepage Detected Near BP Well

While BP (BP) appears to have successfully capped its leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, the action may not be an unqualified success. Engineers have discovered seepage from the seabed near the wellhead. That means pressure from the cap that keeps crude from flowing into the water may be causing other small leaks.

In a letter to BP Managing Director Bob Dudley, Admiral Thad Allen, head of the U.S. government's team addressing the leak, wrote that he was aware of the seepage problem and expects BP to provide information about the issue immediately. "I direct you to provide 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."

BP now faces the possibility that the cap on the well may have problematic side effects. Seepage from the seabed of the Gulf near the well could bedevil BP's efforts to completely contain the leak until relief wells can be finished. The company anticipates that the relief wells will be completed in a matter of weeks.

But relief wells may not solve the problem of another set of leaks, which means that the steps to fix the problem may cause a series of new ones.