photo by JBrazito (Flickr Creative Commons)

Though the cap on the damaged oil well in the Gulf of Mexico is reportedly holding, hydrocarbon leakage has been detected on the seabed.

The hope has been that the cap – successfully placed over the wellhead last week – would stop the flow of oil into the Gulf until permanent relief wells are in place.

US Admiral Thad Allen has written to BP chief of operations Bob Dudley demanding answers. He is quoted in a report in the Guardian:

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.

A BP spokesperson has stated that the seepage was detected some distance from the well, but pressure readings on the well cap were not as high as expected, suggesting that there may be a leak elsewhere in the wellbore. This could mean instability in the seabed and could require a reopening of the newly installed cap.

BP and the US government have disagreed on how to proceed.

From an msnbc article:

After nearly three months of harsh criticism as it tried repeatedly to stop the leak, BP capped the nearly mile-deep well Thursday and wants to keep it that way. The government’s plan, however, is to eventually pipe oil to the surface, which would ease pressure on the fragile well but require up to three more days of oil spilling into the Gulf.

BP’s plan would keep the cap in place, while US government plan would allow more oil to leak into the Gulf so that another breach doesn’t occur.

Meanwhile, according to Admiral Allen, testing on the cap will continue.

Additional resources:

Wall Street Journal – BP Shares Fall on Worries Over Well Cap Test