At 5:41 AM this morning National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen issued a statement that a conference call last night between BP and a federal science team was convened to discuss a seep near the blown Macondo well-head and a "possible observation of methane" over the well.
Yesterday I sent BP a letter stating that there were a number of unanswered questions about the monitoring systems they committed to as a condition of the US government extending the well integrity test. Last night a conference call between the federal science team and BP representatives was convened to discuss some specific issues, including the detection of a seep near the well and the possible observation of methane over the well. During the conversation, the federal science team got the answers they were seeking and the commitment from BP to meet their monitoring and notification obligations.
Ongoing monitoring and full analysis of both the seepage and methane will continue in coordination with the science team.
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.
In an interview with C-SPAN on July 18, Allen said that scientists were actively looking for methane leaks.
These are very serious developments and the American public deserves to know more than the fact that Allen had a discussion with experts. Between 94 million and 184 million gallons have spilled into the Gulf, according to government estimates, and additional leaks could spell disaster for the future of the Gulf of Mexico.
Since the pressure tests of the new containment cap began last week, there has been a steady stream of conflicting statements from BP and the federal government. BP says it wants to leave the cap on, while federal officials want to relieve pressure on the cap as a safer option. This would mean at least three more days of oil flowing unchecked into Gulf waters.
The hope of a permanent solution rests in the completion of one of two relief wells. Upon a successful intersection with the Macondo well, the relief well would be plugged with mud, permanently capping the well and putting an end to the river of oil that has been flowing into the Gulf of Mexico since April 20.