Did BP Cause Damage to the Gulf Sea Floor … Which Is Leading to Ever-Larger “Natural” Oil Seeps from the Macondo Reservoir?

George Washington's picture

In June of 2010, BP officials admitted to damage beneath the seafloor under BP’s Gulf Macondo well.

Nmerous scientists have speculated that the blowout and subsequent clumsy attempts by BP to plug the well could have created new seeps, and made pre-existing natural seeps bigger.

We have repeatedly noted that the Macondo oil reservoir may still be leaking.

American reporter Dahr Jamail reports in a must-read article at Al Jazeera:

Al Jazeera has spotted a large oil sheen near the infamous Macondo 252 well.


In September 2011, Al Jazeera spotted a large swath of silvery oil sheen located roughly 19km northeast of the now-capped well.


But now, on February 29, Al Jazeera conducted another over-flight of the area and found a larger area of sea covered in oil sheen in the same location.


Oil trackers with the organisation On Wings of Care, who have been monitoring the new oil since mid-August 2011, have for months found rainbow-tinted slicks and thick silvery globs of oil consistently visible in the area.


“This is the same crescent shaped area of oil and sheen I’ve been seeing here since the middle of last August,” Bonny Schumaker, president and pilot of On Wings of Care, told Al Jazeera while flying over the oil.


Schumaker has logged approximately 500 hours of flight time monitoring the area around the Macondo well, and has flown scientists from NASA, the US Geological Survey (USGS), and oil chemistry scientists to observe conditions resulting from BP’s oil disaster that began in April 2010.


When Al Jazeera flew to the area on September 11, 2011, the oil sheen was approximately 25km long and 10 to 50 metres wide, at a location roughly 19km northeast of the Macondo 252 well.


On the recent over flight, the area covered in oil sheen was approximately 35km long, and ranged from 20 to 100 metres wide in approximately the same location. At times, fumes from the oil filled the aircraft, even at an altitude of 350 metres.


Schumaker, a career physicist with NASA who retired in 2011, is deeply concerned because she has spotted oil in the same location now at least 15 times since last August.


Edward Overton, professor emeritus at Louisiana State University’s environmental sciences department, examined data from oil samples taken from this area last September and confirmed that the oil is from the Macondo reservoir.


Experts believe the oil is likely to be from a seep in the seabed, but there is debate about what caused the seep, as many believe it may well have been caused by BP’s blowout well and the failed attempts to cap it during spring 2010….


Overton, who is also a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contractor, told Al Jazeera in September, “After examining the data, I think it’s a dead ringer for the MC252 [Macondo Well] oil, as good a match as I’ve seen.”


He explained that the samples were analysed and compared to “the known Macondo oil fingerprint, and it was a very, very close match”.


While not ruling out the possibility that oil could be seeping out of the giant reservoir, which would be the worst-case scenario, Overton believed the oil currently reaching the surface was probably from oil that was trapped in the damaged rigging on the seafloor.


However, given the fact that the oil sheen has existed in this area since at least as early as August 2010 and is continuing, the likelihood of it being residual oil from the Deepwater Horizon or damaged rigging is now slim.


Other scientists remain concerned that the new oil could be coming from a seep from the same reservoir the Macondo well was drilled into. The oilfield, located 64km off the coast of Louisiana, is believed to hold as much 50 million barrels of producible oil reserves.


Natural oil seepage in the Gulf of Mexico is a common phenomenon and can cause sheens, but the current oil and sheen is suspect due to its size and location near the Macondo well.


“From what I’ve seen, this new oil and sheen definitely seemed larger than typical natural seepages found in the Gulf of Mexico,” Dr Ira Leifer, a University of California scientist who is an expert on natural hydrocarbon oil and gas emissions from the seabed told Al Jazeera. “Because of the size and its location, there is a greater concern that should require a larger public investigation.”




New Orleans attorney Stuart Smith, who litigates against major oil companies, believes the burden of proof about where the oil is coming from lies on BP.


“Our worst fears have proven true,” Smith said of the seep. “We have a chronic leak scenario caused by the Macondo well, and it is time for the feds and BP to come clean and tell the American public the truth. Unless/until the government and BP explain in a verifiable manner what the source of this oil is, in my opinion any thoughts of settlement are way premature.”




[US Coast Guard Captain Jonathan Burton] said after seeing footage from the submersible of BP’s cap, he does not believe the Macondo well, or the relief wells BP drilled to stop it, are leaking, and he feels the oil is from natural seepage.


“Research shows the Macondo area is ripe for seeps, and I think that’s what we’re looking at here, and it’s coming from the same reservoir,” Burton said.




Burton, who was somewhat defensive for BP, added that he thinks that “the seep was there all along”, and “doesn’t know why BP has been silent on it.”


Coast Guard Lieutenant Eric Brooks, also present in Al Jazeera’s meeting with Captain Burton, later provided a link to [images of natural seeps] …. However, the figures shown on the website itself are for areas quite far west and south of the area in question. ”




“We can tell you that we recently sent a remote operated submarine down to inspect the Macondo well cap and the relief well cap,” Mueller, added, “Both are intact and show no evidence of any oil leak. So no oil is leaking from the Macondo well.”


But experts believe that is exactly the problem, since the work BP conducted to cap the gushing well could have caused oil to begin seeping from the reservoir in an area away from the capped well.


Leifer remains concerned that the seep, given its proximity to the Macondo well, could be oil in the reservoir that entered a layer of mud and has migrated into a natural pathway that leads to the seabed.


“I see these new observations [of the seep] as the canary in the coal mine that indicates something could be changing at the seabed and should not be ignored and hope it goes away,” he said.


Given Overton’s findings that the oil does appear to be from Macondo, Leifer added, “It’s not necessary to be alarmist, but this is something that deserves setting an alarm off to investigate”.


Of Captain Burton’s comments about the oil coming from the Macondo reservoir, Smith had this to say:


“What is significant in my mind, as an attorney, is that a US government official admitted this is Macondo oil, and to me, absent BP producing evidence this seep existed prior to their drilling, they therefore must have caused it.”


Leifer’s concerns are that if the seep increases in volume, “It could be a persistent, significant, continuous oil spill again, and that would require BP to go back and re-drill, and block off the pipeline even deeper than they already did, or else they would be liable for whatever the emissions are, forever, because it’s not going to stop for a very long time”.


Dr Ian MacDonald, a professor of biological oceanography at Florida State University who uses satellite remote sensing to locate natural oil releases on the ocean surface, confirmed that there are natural seeps in this region of the Gulf of Mexico, but believes more investigation is necessary in order to determine the cause and source of this particular site.


“The question for science is: Are the rates of seepage consistent with what they were prior to the blowout?” MacDonald told Al Jazeera. “Is the amount of oil we’re seeing now unusual with respect to historic levels? Can this oil be traced back to these formations?”




[Leifer said] “There is natural migration in the area around Macondo, and one of the sites we’ve studied is MC118, about 18km away,” but added, “The concern is not that human activities caused a fault, but by creating pathways outside the [well] casing, they are allowing oil to travel along the well pipe then migrate horizontally until it intersects an existing vertical fault migration pathway, then reach the sea bed.”


His concern, shared by other scientists, is the possibility that the volume of oil flowing from the seep, if it is related to the Macondo area, could increase with time.


“We should be having sonar works done of that area, and the public needs to be informed of the findings,” Leifer said. “That survey should be repeated every three or six months to confirm that the seepage is not becoming larger and more widespread.”




“I don’t understand why we’re seeing so much more oil out there right now than we’ve seen in the past,” MacDonald said. “We need to dig in and investigate and see what is going on.”


Smith agreed, and took it a step further.


“We demand a National Academy of Science investigation into this seep,” and added, “BP has had six months to come up with evidence to prove they did not cause this seep. Considering that Al Jazeera and Associated Press have reported this [seep], you’d think BP would produce evidence they did not cause it.”


The possibility that brings the greatest concern is that oil is leaking from the reservoir straight out of the ground. This situation could be impossible to stop, because the vent would increase in size over time due to the highly pressurised reservoir.

Washington’s Blog interviewed one of the world’s leading experts on oil leaks in 2010, Robert Bea. Dr. Bea noted that we may never be able to fully stop BP’s oil leak:

Few people in the world know more about oil drilling disasters than Dr. Robert Bea.


Bea teaches engineering at the University of California Berkeley, and has 55 years of experience in engineering and management of design, construction, maintenance, operation, and decommissioning of engineered systems including offshore platforms, pipelines and floating facilities. Bea has worked for many years in governmental and quasi-governmental roles, and has been a high-level governmental adviser concerning disasters. He worked for 16 years as a top mechanical engineer and manager for Shell Oil, and has worked with Bechtel and the Army Corps of Engineers. One of the world’s top experts in offshore drilling problems, Bea is a member of the Deepwater Horizon Study Group, and has been interviewed by news media around the world concerning the BP oil disaster.




WB: Is it possible that this fractured, subsea salt geology will make it difficult to permanently kill the oil leak using relief wells?


Bea: Yes, it could. The Santa Barbara channel seeps are still leaking, decades after the oil well was supposedly capped. This well could keep leaking for years.


Scripps mapped out seafloor seeps in the area of the well prior to the blowout. Some of the natural seeps penetrate 10,000 to 15,000 feet beneath the seafloor. The oil will follow lines of weakness in the geology. The leak can travel several horizontal miles from the location of the leak.


[In other words, the geology beneath the seafloor is so fractured, with soft and unstable salt formations, that we may never be able to fully kill the well even with relief wells. Instead, the loss of containment of the oil reservoir caused by the drilling accident could cause oil to leak out through seeps for years to come. See this and this for further background].




WB: I have heard that BP is underestimating the size of the oil reservoir (and see this). Is it possible that the reservoir is bigger than BP is estimating, and so – if not completely killed – the leak could therefore go on for longer than most assume?


Bea: That’s plausible.


WB: The chief electronics technician on the Deepwater Horizon said that the Macondo well was originally drilled in another location, but that “going faster caused the bottom of the well to split open, swallowing tools”, and that BP abandoned that well. You’ve spoken to that technician and looked into the incident, and concluded that “they damn near blew up the rig.” [See this and this].


Do you know where that abandoned well location is, and do you know if that well is still leaking?


Bea: The abandoned well is very close to the current well location. BP had to file reports showing the location of the abandoned well and the new well [with the Minerals Management Service], so the location of the abandoned well is known.


We don’t know if the abandoned well is leaking.


WB: Matthew Simmons talked about a second leaking well. There are rumors on the Internet that the original well is still leaking. Do you have any information that can either disprove or confirm that allegation?


Bea: There are two uncorroborated reports. One is that there is a leak 400 feet West of the present well’s surface location. There is another report that there is a leak several miles to the West.


[Bea does not know whether either report is true at this time, because BP is not sharing information with the government, let alone the public.]

Postscript: Self-described “petroleum industry geohazards engineer” BK Lim has picked up the conspiracy theory mantle from Simmons, claiming there were three leaking wells. We haven’t read Lim’s statements, and so offer no comment on his credibility.

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winter2012's picture

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q99x2's picture

The Rothschilds again. I knew it. I knew it. It just had to be them. They are behind every dastardly deed taking place today.

Nice NWO you genetically mutated scum. You are bringing to the surface an oil leak the size of Texas and doing nothing about it. That's how much you care about the world. Paint the world black with oil. Paint it black you devils.

There are certain things that money can't buy - like your freedom when the law catches up to you. You are very bad people and should be placed in the cornfield.

May you have dreams of being handcuffed, tarred and feathered, and ridiculed by your children tonight.

Benjamin Glutton's picture

OT...but interesting.

Al Qaeda #1 and our old pal and current partner in Syria...apparently used Bin Laden's youngest wife to help Obama shoot Binny in the eye. Did I mention Iran gets credit for an assist.?

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian doctor often considered the real brains behind Al-Qaeda, "got fed up and decided to sideline" bin Laden when the leader started losing his mental faculties after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Qadir says the Iranians released her in late 2010 and she returned to her husband, but first, spent several months in an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.

Two months after she arrived, the Americans raided the house. Qadir is convinced that Khairia betrayed her husband.

"Everything began to happen when Khairia arrived," he said. "Everybody had a problem with her. Before, the two other wives were living comfortably."

Bin Laden's grown-up son, Khalid, born to another Saudi wife, was also suspicious, Qadir said.

"He kept on asking her 'why have you come? What do you want from him?' She just responded 'I have one more duty to perform for my husband'.

"Khalid told his dad: 'I suspect she's going to betray you.' Bin Laden answered 'so be it'."

Bin Laden tried to persuade the other wives to leave for their own safety, but they refused, Qadir said.

The United States says it was tipped off much earlier by an Al-Qaeda courier. But Qadir contradicts that, stating that Zawahiri may have used Khairia as bait for the Americans.


Heroic Couplet's picture

It was amazing how my Republican pals all were yelling for Obama to do something. and when I asked them "Since when have you embraced socialism?" their jaws dropped to the ground.

BP is a PRIVATELY owned corporations. The chain of responsibility is from the CEO to the Rothschild family.

Buck Johnson's picture

We may not be done with the gulf in the very near future, not done at all.

Xkwisetly Paneful's picture

Interesting since the single largest profiteers from BP are the governments.

But it like most oil companies are pretend private so lunatics can post on the internet about those evil capitalists.

CEOoftheSOFA's picture

This article is bullshit.  Al Jazeera?  Give me a brake. 

Meremortal's picture

This. Is. Bullshit.


And yes, I read it. Which was a waste of time.

IQ 101's picture

I do not agree with George Carlin on 99% of his stuff, but I am always listening to diverse opinions as I consider it a duty, and he did offend me often and made me piss my pants laughing a few times, 

If we woke up tomorrow and all the criminal banksters were hanging from lamp posts, we would still be fucked .

Not to diminish the seriousness of the Gulf issue, I seek perspective.

George did have a bit of perspective in that area, We are fucking laughable egotists, worms.





nmewn's picture

One of my all time favorites..."people trying to make the world safe to drive their Volvos"...lol.

His acerbic wit is sorely missed.

Tsar Pointless's picture

Did BP cause damage to the Gulf sea floor?

Did GHW Bush want JFK to stop breathing on 11/22/63?

Did the FBI have MKL silenced?

Did Jessica Tate die on the series finale of "Soap"?

Don't you just adore rhetorical questions?

non_anon's picture

not to worry, BP settled, i mean paid off Obama on the spill, no future liabilities

krispkritter's picture

Still won't eat from or fish in the Gulf. The research boats going out have repeatedly found layers of 'who-knows-what' under the surface which is probably a train wreck caused by using un-natural compounds to fend off a man-made disaster; ie. Corexit and whatever else they used to hide the oil slicks. Even in Tampa Bay, shipwrecks have left oil deposits in the flats and marshes that have surfaced years after the spills happened and since it's not visible immediately after the wrecks they deem it 'safe'. Can't believe anything the State or Feds say and I put much more stock in what the private and University findings are than the gov't talking heads...

Reese Bobby's picture

Let it go GW.  Let it go.

AbruptlyKawaii's picture

we have effectively killed the oceans very depressing, anywhere you look we have killed the web of life systematically at every level


the grand banks collapsed, newfoundland collapsed, alaska? whose gonna eat the crabs they catch now? crabs and other benthics concentrate radiation and chemicals in their bodies, the gulf is now dead, seriously we deserve death as a species

nmewn's picture

I can assure you, the gulf is not dead. I live in Fla. Was it a mess?...yes it was.

But the sea bed did not collapse, sea water didn't pour onto molten hot maaagmaaah underneath and split the entire planet in two...lol.

Everythings fine, you missed a portion of what GW said, oil seeps are natural in the gulf and we really do have natures little critters that eat oil out there.

By the way, it is roughly the equivalent of two Exxon Valdez spills per year just seeping out of the sea bed.

(Audible gasp) ;-)

krispkritter's picture

The problem was that I think they tried to 'hide' it by pouring untold amounts of chemicals into the Gulf to sink the spill into now what is a questionable pool of toxic crap that Mother Nature can't address naturally. One fuckup leads to another fuckup leads too...you get the idea. They should have stuck with conventional surface recovery methods(which were offered to them), instead they used a proprietary mix of crap which enriched who? in order to hide the worst of this. Pigs feeding at the trough...


nmewn's picture

They did try to hide it. I never agreed with pouring chemicals on it...it's fucking stupid, oil is a part of nature.

It's a lot like that stupid ass pig flu scare a year or so ago (world health organization combining with governments & corporations) some people just can't let a good crisis go to waste and not make a buck or two off it.

Let's scare everyone into taking these shots that are going bad in the fridge...that was another ridiculous over reaction that someone profited on.

AbruptlyKawaii's picture

The BP well made it worse did you miss that? and also, nothing personal, i wont eat gulf food but i wont eat sushi from the pacific either, but i wanted to ask you forget the gulf, are you saying we dont deserve death as a dead end evolutionary mistake species? i mean either darwin is correct or we disprove evolution we disprove natural selection

nmewn's picture

Did you miss both large question marks punctuating the post? He's asking a question and promoting an answer...not giving one.

It's his style...and I'm fine with it.

I read about half of it and gave up because of words like "speculated" (it arrives in the second sentence) with "may" arriving in the third sentence.

Others to consider are "experts believe" and "but there is debate"...and that's just a rough "skim" back through it. You believe what you want to beleive but at least comprehend what is actually said/written.

Have fun.

AbruptlyKawaii's picture

selective cognitive bias i know what you mean story of our lives....he had me at bp...i dont think i read a full sentence....except about matt simmons which i already knew about so nothing gained there but confirmation bias

nmewn's picture

It's cool.

It was a bad spill, nothing wrong with asking questions as long as we get verifiable answers.

AbruptlyKawaii's picture

i found out i was worshiping death with all of this, instead of embracing life, sound cheesy, and speaking of cheese, you know i didnt know that San Francisco milk has 150% of epa cesium and ive been eating nocal cheese for the past year but i came to the conclusion that u know what u live once and you can sit there and brood and worship death not to say that it's not real or you can go out enjoy the spring geographically and embrace life, like in trainspotting sortas, or the deer hunter, the shinning was good too, kubrik, but,  no one gets out alive anyway so i dunno maybe it's the hashish/red wine talking ....prolly anyway im gonna go play online golf and embrace life

nmewn's picture

There ya go...we only get one shot at this life...lol.

greensnacks's picture

BP will forever be blamed and linked to any leak in the gulf. Oh no! The Macondo well leak is affecting California too!


Quick, someone sue BP!

Only real solution is to suck it all out of the ground.

Is this what they meant by Obama releasing strategic reserves?

LetThemEatRand's picture

I strongly suspect you are not paid to be a shill, which makes it all the more pitiful.

greensnacks's picture

The individuals who caused the disaster pleaded the 5th and the other claimed medical issues for reasons not to testify, so anyone could draw conclusions as to BPs fault.

An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of crude oil is released naturally from the ocean bottom every day just a few miles offshore in California near Santa Barbara, according to NOAA. And just because other seeps in the gulf are causing problems, doesn't mean it was caused by this disaster. I am more suspicious that opportunists that are trying to piggy back  on the settlements being duled out.



SilverDosed's picture

You guys dont have a fucking clue what went down in the Gulf, even most of us working in that kafka-esque nightmare still dont have a fucking clue what went down. All I know is it was and still is the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life and I'm not talking about the oil.

Theta_Burn's picture

What went on down there was/is an absolute crime.

Those from the area, hows the local outrage? representatives representing? fishing industries do carry alot of weight, whats their take on this?

 Not to trivialize this, but what is going on in Japan is 100 times worse.


AbruptlyKawaii's picture

no no no fukushima ended the pacific web of life now down to the genome for millenia the pacific is a toxic death zone long after humans are gone fukushima will still be fuking the very life force in the pacific and eventually all the oceans for millions possibly billions of years

LasVegasDave's picture

an infinitesimally small price to pay for all those excellent products that wonderful nation produces.


nmewn's picture

Peak Leaks!!!

Cult of Criminality's picture

Drilling into/through salt domes...not smart

When the salt dome implodes due to the warm ocean waters that now can get to it to dissolve it,it will not be good.

They drilled in the worst spot that they could.

No it is not any better in the Gulf. it is all on the ocean floor. BP,Corexit,Goldman Sachs,Synthia, connect the dots you will know the answers.

Yes, Matt Simmons knew too much ,In this country hits can be put out on you if you do not tow the wall st/washington line apparently, its all good and the government will cover you if, you are in the Cult of Criminality.

Debt-Is-Not-Money's picture

I'm not sure of the geology in the location of this well, but the well pressures have been reported between 60,000-75,000 psig (>5,000 atmospheres). Matt Simmons reported in several interviews on the multiple seep locations miles from the well itself. I live about 150 miles north of the well and must admit that I still have concerns about a major rupture (picture a huge crude oil and sour natural gas volcano) that could kill or sicken millions on the gulf coast depending on prevailing winds.

One thing not reported was in January of 2007 USGS reported a 5.5 mag earthquake that was in proximity to this well (I dont know if the well was being drilled at that time). I can't find any record of this on the USGS website.

The constant upward revisions on the amount of material spewing (it was definitely NOT a "leak") began at around 3,000 bbl/day and the last estimate was close to 70,000 bbl/day with an equal amount of sour gas (deadly). This single well could supply the daily needs of a mid-sized refinery (gotta hide this- we are supposed to be past "peak oil").

This would be the opposite of what happened at Lake Peigneur in 1986:

Flakmeister's picture

Don't worry, its just God giving us his gift of abiotic oil....

Think of manna from the bottom of the sea...

FeralSerf's picture

I thought you didn't believe in abiotic oil.  When do you think this oil field will peak?

FeralSerf's picture

This is the thanks I get for not mentioning the really stupid, really idiotic lack of an apostrophe between the "it" and  the "s" (it's is a contraction, BTW) in your post?  I'll remember that.

Flakmeister's picture

Careful.... You're getting spittle all over yourself and we would not want to loose your comic relief because of a self-induced aneurysm....

FeralSerf's picture

Do you have the foggiest fucking idea how "lose" and "loose" are used in the english language?  What is your native tongue, BTW?

For your enlightenment:

loose /lo?os/

Adjective: Not firmly or tightly fixed in place; detached or able to be detached: "a loose tooth".

Verb: Set free; release: "the hounds have been loosed".

Synonyms: adjective. lax - slack - free
verb. release - loosen - untie - unfasten - unbind - undo

lose /lo?oz/

Verb: Be deprived of or cease to have or retain (something): "Did you lose the hounds?"  "They appear to be lost."

Cause(someone) to fail to gain or retain (something): "you lost me my appointment at the university".

"Lost" is the past tense of lose.

One who loses things is said to be a loser.  An example of proper usage would be: "Only a loser or someone with a few loose screws would confuse "loose" with "lose".  Did you lose a few loose screws?


Flakmeister's picture

You are so easy to bait... 

FeralSerf's picture

Flakie claims that his lack of understanding of english is only a ruse, that we should believe he's just baiting a hook?  Does Flakie really believe everyone is that stupid?

blunderdog's picture

(psst: he's not crazy, he's EXCITED!)

Cistercian's picture

BP...a company whose legacy just keeps giving and giving.In a inimical way, of course.

  It will suck to watch the oil leak rate increase over time....

No spin or series of lies will change the damage.


calltoaccount's picture

"Who is the majority owner of BP?  

As of 2010-

According to the European financial database Amadeus, JPMorgan Chase is the No. 1 holder of stock in BP. That distinction also has earned the Wall Street bank the title of “Global Ultimate Owner” of the oil giant, as it owns 28.34% of BP. Next, at 7.99%, is Legal and General Group, a British-based financial services company with assets of more than $350 billion. Another U.S. Investment firm, BlackRock Inc., owns 7.1% of BP. Other owners include the governments of Kuwait, Norway, Singapore and China." https://amadeus.bvdinfo.com/version-201228/home.serv?product=amadeusneo

FeralSerf's picture


"The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it." -- Dr. Josef Mengele

Sudden Debt's picture

They nuked it. That's why there where no boats at the site the day "they closed the hole"