BP faces new storm

Storms were threatening to disrupt efforts to deal with the Gulf oil spill earlier this week, just as positive signs emerged that the cap on the damaged well is working.

Bad weather is building up in the Caribbean and over the Atlantic, and one wave could become a violent storm by the weekend, meteorologists said. A storm in the Gulf of Mexico could massively disrupt the effort to clean up the oil spill and permanently stop the flow of more oil.

“Later this week we may have some problems with a tropical wave … we certainly are going to keep a very close eye on this system,” said Dan Kottlowski, a hurricane expert at weather monitoring website Accuweather.

Bad weather has already disrupted the operation to deal with the Gulf spill several times during the months-long attempts to kill the deep-sea oil well.

Tropical storms can damage oil collecting booms, force skimming boats to give up collecting oil from the surface and hamper the work of vessels seeking to operate the well cap.

The warning of bad weather emerged as concern was starting to abate over reports of oil seeping from several points on the sea floor near the newly capped well. It had been feared that the seepage could indicate that the well is damaged deep below the sea bed and that oil is beginning to seep up through the sea floor.

But BP and government officials have not yet confirmed that this is what is happening and some have pointed to healthy signs from within the new cap on the well, which has finally stopped the flow of oil into the Gulf.

They say the pressure within the well is climbing within the target ranges, which appears to indicate the cap is working.
BP has also said that one seepage, about 3km from the well, is a natural occurrence; but another seepage is much nearer to the well and some leakage is also occurring from the cap itself.

BP will be allowed to keep the well closed for the moment, as officials examine the situation more closely, thus allowing BP to avoid more damaging releases of oil into the sea as it prepares to seal the well permanently.

The closure helps BP avoid more fines on top of the already massive sums it will be liable for in respect of oil already released.
BP is preparing several means to kill the well permanently. Relief wells drilled alongside the original well are poised to break into the damaged shaft deep below the sea bed. They have proceeded ahead of schedule. At the same time BP officials are mulling a second attempt to shoot drilling mud into the damaged blowout preventer to seal the well from the top. An original attempt to seal the well using this method failed, but officials think it might be easier now.

Comprehensively and finally plugging the well would go some way to bringing an end to the damage done to BP’s reputation globally, but especially in the United States, where it is under sustained assault from all sides.

But this respite is unlikely to come any time soon. Mother Jones, a left-wing magazine, reported an unlisted BP phone number for politicians in California to ring and ask for tickets to sporting events and music concerts. The magazine said that BP had given away more than $300000 worth of tickets in 10 years. — Guardian News & Media 2010

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