Where's BP's Well Integrity Data?

| Wed Jul. 14, 2010 1:08 PM EDT

BP's latest attempt to cap the Gulf gusher was put on hold Wednesday afternoon amid questions about whether the company could safely contain the leak without making the disaster worse. The 150,000-pound "capping stack" is in place, but more tests are being conducted to make sure it doesn't create too much pressure on the well. A well integrity test, meant to ensure that the well can withstand the pressure created by the cap, was supposed to be completed yesterday, but is on hold.

The state of the wellbore has been in question for some time; incident commander Thad Allen said last month that that its condition is unknown. The worry is that more pressure might further damage the wellbore, causing even more oil to spew into the Gulf. Current estimates range from 35,000 barrels per day to 60,000. But internal BP documents estimate that up to 100,000 barrels per day could come from the gusher if the wellbore is further compromised.

Last month, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asked BP to provide information about the status of the wellbore, but the company has not yet responded. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) sent a similar letter to BP on June 2; his spokesman confirmed today that they, too, have not received a response from BP despite having "asked them about it many times since."

Markey sent a second letter today, again asking for more information about the condition:

Please provide documents related to the condition of the wellbore.

—Has BP attempted to determine whether the casing inside the wellbore has been damaged and if so, what were the results? Please provide all measurements, images, and other documents related to the condition of the wellbore, as well as any future plans for such measurements going forward.

—Has BP confirmed or attempted to confirm the presence of hydrocarbons leaking from anywhere other than the containment cap? If so, what were the results? Please provide all related documents.

—Has BP surveyed the vicinity of the well to look for any leaks from the sea floor? If so, what area was surveyed? Please provide all measurements, images, and other documents related to any survey(s) to identify hydrocarbon leakage from the sea floor. If no survey has been performed, why not?

Markey also notes that the administration has been provided with this information, but it hasn't been made public. He also sent a letter to Allen asking him to make public what they know about the well's integrity.