New Leak In the Gulf?

| Mon Jul. 19, 2010 10:52 AM EDT

BP has reported success in closing in the Gulf well with its new dome, but all is not well in the Gulf yet. Thad Allen, the incident commander for the Gulf disaster, sent a letter to BP last night asking for more information about "a seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head."

The letter doesn't offer much in the way of detail about the seep, but the acknowledgment of an additional leak is a bad sign; it could mean that the well is damaged enough that oil is escaping through other avenues. Allen granted BP permission to keep the well closed off for another 24 hours while tests and observation of this new leak continue.

Allen's letter demanded a new response plan for the well, given the concerns about the leak and questions about how much damage the wellhead may have sustained:

As a continued condition of the test, you are required to provide as a top priority access and coordination for the monitoring systems, which include seismic and sonar surface ships and subsea ROV and acoustic systems. 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.