BP have announced that seepage near its Gulf of Mexico well was unrelated to the massive oil leak that has temporarily been capped.
BP shares, which had dropped more than 6 percent after engineers detected seepage on the floor of the Gulf after the well was capped on Thursday, recovered in late trade on the news. They were down 3.9 percent in late afternoon trading in New York.
BP spokesman Mark Proegler said: “Scientists have concluded that the seep was naturally occurring.”
White House energy adviser Carol Browner told CBS’s “The Early Show” the seepage was found less than two miles (three km) from the well.
Investors had feared that seepage could mean that oil and gas escape uncontrolled through bedrock and mud.
It was also feared that the cap was leaking, meaning it could have had to be reopened to prevent the environmental disaster from becoming even worse and harder to fix.
Officials are monitoring the pressure in the well to gauge whether it is structurally sound.
But US Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen said: “We do not believe that it (the seepage) is associated with this particular well integrity test.”
When the seepage was discovered on Sunday, Mr Allen sent a firm letter to BP managing director Bob Dudley.
“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,” he wrote.
To plug the well, BP is drilling two relief wells, one of them as a backup.
The company said work on the first one was far enough along that officials expect to reach the broken well’s pipes deep underground by late this month.
It will take months, or possibly years, for the Gulf to recover, though cleanup efforts continued and improvements in the water could be seen in the days since the oil stopped flowing.
Somewhere between 94 and 184 million gallons have spilt into the Gulf, according to government estimates. [via Daily Telegraph (UK)]