BP's Gulf Oil Well May Be Leaking AGAIN: "The Oil May Be Coming From Cracks And Fissures In The Seafloor"

George Washington's picture

By Washington’s Blog

 As I noted last year, the seafloor under BP's leaking Gulf oil well cracked, and could leak for years.

Successful New Orleans attorney Stuart Smith - lead counsel in a lawsuit that resulted in a $1.056 billion dollar verdict against ExxonMobil for contaminating land and attempting to cover it up - says that it is leaking again.

Smith wrote yesterday:

No, this isn’t a post from last year. Oil from the Macondo Well site is fouling the Gulf anew – and BP is scrambling to contain both the crude and the PR nightmare that waits in the wings. Reliable sources tell us that BP has hired 40 boats from Venice to Grand Isle to lay boom around the Deepwater Horizon site – located just 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The fleet rushed to the scene late last week and worked through the weekend to contain what was becoming a massive slick at the site of the Macondo wellhead, which was officially “killed” back in September 2010.


The truly frightening part of this development, as reported in a previous post (see below), is the oil may be coming from cracks and fissures in the seafloor caused by the work BP did during its failed attempts to cap the runaway Macondo Well – and that type of leakage can’t be stopped, ever.


Catch up on how this could possibly be happening – again – by reading or re-reading my July 25 post below. Stay tuned as we will be all over this story as it continues to develop.


Is BP’s Macondo Well Site Still Leaking? Fresh Oil on the Gulf Raises Concerns and Haunting Memories


Fresh oil is surfacing all over the northern quadrant of the Gulf of Mexico. Reports of slicks that meander for miles and huge expanses of oil sheen that look like phantom islands are becoming common, again. Fresh oil, only slightly weathered, is washing ashore in areas hit hardest by last year’s massive spill, like Breton Island, Ship Island, the Chandeleurs and northern Barataria Bay. BP has reactivated its Vessels of Opportunity (VoO) program to handle cleanup. It’s a sickeningly familiar scene that has fishermen, researchers and public officials searching for answers, as haunting memories of last year’s calamity come roaring back.


The fifty-thousand-dollar question, of course, is where is all the new oil coming from?


One theory: The Macondo Well site, located just 40 miles off the Louisiana coast, is still leaking untold amounts of oil into the Gulf. Some argue that the casing on the capped well itself is leaking. Others believe oil is seeping through cracks and fissures in the seafloor caused by months of high-impact work on the site, including a range of recovery activities (some disclosed, some not) as well as the abortive “top kill” effort.


In January 2011, a prominent “geohazards specialist” wrote an urgent letter to two members of Congress – U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and John Shimkus, chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and Economy – suggesting that the Macondo site is leaking oil like a sieve. Here’s an excerpt from that letter (see it in its entirety at link below):


There is no question that the oil seepages, gas columns, fissures and blowout craters in the seafloor around the Macondo wellhead… have been the direct result of indiscriminate drilling, grouting, injection of dispersant and other undisclosed recover activities. As the rogue well had not been successfully cemented and plugged at the base of the well by the relief wells, unknown quantities of hydrocarbons are still leaking out from the reservoir at high pressure and are seeping through multiple fault lines to the seabed. It is not possible to cap this oil leakage.


BK Lim, the letter’s author, has more than 30 years of experience working inside the oil and gas industry for companies like Shell, Petronas and Pearl Oil.


More from Mr. Lim’s letter:


The continuing hydrocarbon seepage would have long term, irreversible and potentially dire consequences in the GOM (Gulf of Mexico)…

The letter is dated Jan. 14, 2011 – and we’ve been seeing more and more evidence that the scenario Mr. Lim describes is indeed taking place deep below the Gulf’s surface.


For example, on March 28, 2011, Paul Orr and his team from the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper – an organization I’ve worked with frequently over the course of the last year – conducted a 50-mile boat patrol and sampling tour of Breton Sound, which lies just off the southeast coast of Louisiana. The excursion was prompted by multiple, increasingly frantic, reports of oil in the area by fishermen and others, including On Wings of Care pilot Bonny Schumaker, who has dozens of Gulf flyovers under her belt.


Mr. Orr took a sample from the southern end of Breton Island National Park – and sure enough, lab-certified tests results established a fingerprint match to BP’s Macondo Well (see link to my previous post and test results below).


The most alarming part of the finding was not simply that the Breton Island sample had BP’s fingerprint on it, but that the test results were nearly identical to those from the fresh oil seen in the early days of the BP spill – instead of the heavily weathered and degraded oil we’ve come to expect in recent weeks and months.


Those test results seem to disprove the other theory surrounding this spate of recent “fresh oil” reports. That is: All the oil BP strategically sunk to the seafloor with nearly 2 million gallons of toxic dispersant is beginning to break free and rise to the surface en masse, and in turn, blacken the coastline with fresh oil. According to civil engineer and petroleum expert, Marco Kaltofen, oil that has been lying on the seafloor for several months would be much significantly more weathered than the fresh oil we’re seeing more and more of.


As you’ll notice from the histograms, the Breton Island sample mirrors the submerged oil sampled from Pensacola Bay on Nov. 5, 2010 (see link to original post with histograms below) and a sample taken from Panama City Beach on July 14, 2010. You don’t have to be a marine biologist to see that this is the same oil with nearly identical weathering.


So we had fresh oil with BP’s signature on it coming ashore in March – more than eight months after the Macondo Well was capped. And since then, members of my team and other researchers have reported fresh oil, of the “only slightly weathered” variety from Grand Isle to Pensacola. One charter boat fishing captain, who frequents the waters around Louisiana’s barrier islands, is describing the current, hauntingly familiar situation on the Gulf as the “second wave” of the BP disaster.


Read my entire July 25 post (with referenced documents) here: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/is-bps-macondo-well-site-still-leaking-fresh-oil-on-the-gulf-raises-concerns-and-haunting-memories

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Dulcinea's picture

Read your blog, GW, but can't post there.  While I don't always agree with you, I do appreciate the issues that you bring to the forefront.  And you've been busy lately!

snowball777's picture

Shovel ready work, ho!

Bob's picture

That one sure got a chuckle outta Barry, yo. 

CEOoftheSOFA's picture

You're basing this article on the opinion of a lawyer?  You have to be kidding me. 

EFNuttin's picture

I decided to see if the local newspaper had any coverage on this story and they had at least two.  In this story http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2011/08/bp_denies_reports_of_oil_leaki.html  the Stuart Smith piece is addressed specifically.  BP denies calling out any Vessels of Opportunity, much less 40 of them as the Times-Picayune reported.  If it turns out BP is stonewalling, it wouldn't be the first or last time.  It seems hard to sweep 40 boat leases among independent sea captains under the rug though.  Of course, this may just be part of managing the news cycle and Smith will produce hard evidence in the next phase.

Here's a "don't worry your pretty little head" article from the Mobile (Alabama) Press-Register  http://blog.al.com/wire/2011/08/oil_companies_investigate_repo.html  Note that there are about 45,000 abandoned wells and roughly 5,000 active wells in the Gulf of Mexico (see National Geographic for details).  Many of them leak some oil from time to time.  By now we all know that the Gulf has microbes that thrive on eating crude oil, so they probably take care of much of the oil leaking from old wells and that naturally seeps through the seafloor, a process which has been going on for millions of years.

What I kept wondering all through the Macondo disaster was why someone didn't just do a more careful job of tapping this well soon after BP fouled it up.  If another team of explorers was to tackle Macondo and cut fewer corners during the process, this well should be producing huge amounts of oil.  Of course, that would entail another company either leasing BP's rights to this field within the Federal Exclusive Economic Zone.  Perhaps the oil cartel and the Feds are happy enough to just leave this oil under the seafloor for a while longer to let the bad press dissipate and keep supply down and prices up.  Why haven't we seen more MSM stories about the extreme corruption in the Interior Department that rendered their oversight toothless prior to the Macondo disaster?  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/04/AR2010050404118.html  (May 2010 story)  We are fortunate BP Atlantis has not also blown up  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-spill-the-scandal-and-the-president-20100608  Here is a story detailing the whopping $2500 fines paid by MMS officials caught in the drugs and hookers scandals as the industry they were to supervise bought their compliance.  http://www.publicintegrity.org/investigations/broken_government/articles/entry/1022/

In another story, the Times-Picayune also maps out how the three phases of next year's BP court trial are expected to proceed.  

We went to Pensacola, Florida in late June and had a fine time on a gorgeous state park beach just on the Florida side of the Florida-Alabama state line.  We didn't see any evidence of an oil spill, but we did have to endure a weeklong "controlled burn" of old vegetation in Gulf Shores Park, Alabama.  Two days of it and we were so miserable we moved to a Florida park instead.  Good ol' Alabama.  It's the peak of tourist season, the park is booked to the brim, and after a small wildfire is contained, you go ahead and let it burn on for another week to clear out brush and 2/3 of the tourists in that huge state park.  Where do you suppose they took their tourist dollars and 9 percent sales taxes? On a side note, the ferry to Dauphin Island was more fun than Dauphin Island.  Dauphin Island was the site of the main Confederate fort that caused Admiral Porter to exclaim, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"  Next time, I'm thinking Smoky Mountains in summer, Gulf Coast in September after tourists clear out and the water is still warm.

Terminus C's picture

You are right. We should trust the opinions of an oil company.

George Washington's picture

I don't know if his theory is right or not.

But a lawyer who wins billion dollar judgments knows how to consult with top, credible experts and accurately convey what they've said...

Element's picture

Is there a new slick/plume building in the area or not (surface or sub-surface)?

Evidence not claims is required with a story like this.

Quarky Gluon's picture

While it's pure conjecture I suspect the oil disaster was an act of self sabotage done to keep the price of oil up by limiting the supply.  If indeed there is a mountain of oil down there underneath the gulf, wouldn't that be enough to positively effect the global supply and bring the price down?   But if a disaster on a large enough scale was created that would cause a ban on drilling into that mountain of oil then that supply would not be tapped.

Given that oil is a liquid and therefore not compressable, it would seem that there would have to be a tremendously large pocket of oil down there for the gusher to have maintained such a high pressure level with no apparent let up until it was finally plugged.


Seer's picture

"While it's pure conjecture I suspect the oil disaster was an act of self sabotage done to keep the price of oil up by limiting the supply.  If indeed there is a mountain of oil down there underneath the gulf, wouldn't that be enough to positively effect the global supply and bring the price down?"

A "mountain of oil" is HOW MUCH?  If a herd of unicorns were to...

ANYTHING is possible, even a group of unicorns appearing on the horizon.  But, the PROBABILITY is exceedingly LOW.

Current world output (extraction) is just shy of 90 MILLION barrels per day.  How much of this total would be required to significantly alter the price of oil?  10%? 20%?  Saudi Arabia produces about 13%.  The Gulf, then, would have to produce at least as much as Saudi Arabia, whose oil fields are the largest EVER discovered (and back BEFORE all the major high-tech equipment existed- nearly 50 years ago!).  Factor in that existing wells are in decline and that bringing on new wells takes several years, and it becomes clear that the probability of oil from the Gulf having any significant impact on reducing oil prices is pretty low.

BTW - liquids ARE compressible, it's just that it's not easy to do (and not likely occurring here).

Quarky Gluon's picture

But keep in mind the Saudi's are now having to pump sea water into their oil fields just to push the oil up the well.  At Macondo the oil kept gushing and gushing at very high pressure levels without any human intervention.  Now I haven't tried to do any calculations on the matter but instead have relied on my intuition of physics to determine how big that mountain of oil might be.  But if we take as a given that the 'bulkhead' of that mountain is what was providing the oil pressure at the well head, my intuition is telling me that if that mountain were merely the size of an appalacian mountain top then all that pressure would have been released long before the well was plugged.  I'm guessing the surface area of that bulkhead would have to be more compareable to an entire Himalayan mountain for the oil pressure to have been maintained for so long on such a big pipe.  Now, surely the volume of something like a mount everest containing oil would be sufficient to significantly affect the global oil supply.

cranky-old-geezer's picture

If it is leaking or isn't leaking, what exactly is anyone here on ZH going to do about it?  

How is this information, if true, actionable in any sort of financial or ecoomic way by anyone here?

This is a finance and economics site, not a 9/11 truth site,  conspiracy theory site, nor Deepwater Horizon BP disaster site.  It's not theoildrum.com.  It's not an Alex Jones / Infowars / PrisonPlanet mirror site. And it ain't the Fukushima covered-up-truth site either.

GO THAT GW ????????


ZippyDooDah's picture

Huge enviro disasters have economic and financial consequences.  Dumbass.  Shut the fuck up.

MsCreant's picture


  • Short BP.
  • Don't go there for vacation (or live there).
  • Don't eat Gulf seafood.
  • Don't invest in MBS, CMBS, or any product having to do with real estate on the shore lines there.

I'm sure this list is much longer.

NoClueSneaker's picture

.... :-P

Exploding batteries in Macs, and defective brakes in Toyota have nothing to do with the aura of Steve Jobs or with the bottom line of the "most proficient car maker in the history".

In doubt, kill the whistleblower to obtain a max. truth.




pods's picture

It must suck that GW has such a power over you that he can persuade you to click on his posts.

Not trying to run your life here, but maybe here is a tip.

If you don't like the subject of a post, why the fuck dont you avoid clicking on it?

If you want to be the supreme editor of all content here, buy the fucking site.

As an aside, what does an ass in a thong have to do with economics or financials?  

Or is that merely self expression?  Self expression that a wanna be editor in chief deems appropriate?


Cult of Criminality's picture

Right.same as the ones fucking off at work worrying about a worksafe environment.Do your job assbites or simply leave .

pods's picture


Never said I was perfect.  Of course, when I asked that avatars remain porn free a while back, it was asking.  And I was not being an asshole about it.  I even recall a thank you, IIRC.


James's picture

GW, have you seen the map the U.S. Navy put out of what happens to the U.S. when that well in the GoM goes BOOM?

We won't need a "Superhighway" up the middle of the U.S. for transport of goods.

We'll just float that stuff up the middle of the U.S,

BP can't cap it for the same reason it blew.

Intense pressure.

FWIW GW, I read most of your stuff here on ZH, your blog, or when linked to your site from another site for reference.

hardcleareye's picture

If you don't like GW's writing, don't read them!!  I for one enjoy them.

Vive la difference!!!


falak pema's picture

Is GW one of your favorites as a male dude in the nude...I am impressed. Vive la difference.

windcatcher's picture

Reply to the Geezer: You are trully a pinched old geezer, why don't you hurry up and die!

DymanicDoug's picture

Snoop around for RPV video showing methane hydrate plumes in a wide area(very wide) around this site...hell even shows fracture ..geology of this stinks...generations of oilmen salivated and lusted for the Macondo.....hell, these rotten bastards lost all thier gear in the first attempt...too deep..too much pressure...crappy fractured salt...after they lost all thier tools downhole....they move 25000 ft and try again....me ? I think it is/was national policy to do this...bring Macondo on...screw SSE asia oil producers...at the end of the day the only thing the facsist gulf oil mob will be good at is making excuses...just say'n

nmewn's picture

Not to be a Debby Downer here but we do have natural seeps in the Gulf. Are they still maintaining a camera on the capped well or not? Anyone think to ask?

Meanwhile, Barry is all about helpin the common man out...

"At Wednesday’s town hall in Atkinson, Ill., a local farmer who said he grows corn and soybeans expressed his concerns to President Barack Obama about “more rules and regulations” — including those concerning dust, noise and water runoff — that he heard would negatively affect his business.

The president, on day three of his Midwest bus tour, replied: “If you hear something is happening, but it hasn’t happened, don’t always believe what you hear.”

When the room broke into soft laughter, the president added, “No — and I’m serious about that.”


“Talk to them directly. Find out what it is that you’re concerned about,” Obama told the man. “My suspicion is, a lot of times, they’re going to be able to answer your questions and it will turn out that some of your fears are unfounded.”

"When this POLITICO reporter decided to take the president's advice and call the USDA for an answer to the Atkinson town hall attendee's question, I found myself in a bureaucratic equivalent of hot potato — getting bounced from the feds to Illinois state agriculture officials to the state farm bureau."

Singing the praises of statists and nanny bullshit artists everywhere ;-)


Rick64's picture

Ya but it sounds and looks so good on t.v. .  Soundbites thats all we need, no follow up.  MJ Lee is a rogue reporter and some people say she is a terrorist.

nmewn's picture

"MJ Lee is a rogue reporter and some people say she is a terrorist."

LOL!!!...one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter afterall ;-)

Milestones's picture

Man George, you must be walking around with an open MIC-The trolls were here in a N.Y. minute.     Milestones

Never_Put_Down's picture

Expect them to blame it on an earth-quake, either one that has happened last year or one that will happen soon

imapopulistnow's picture

Do you ever admit you are wrong?

BP said Thursday that the shiny substance floating on the water's surface didn't come from its operations, and officials said it had since dissipated. Reports of sheen are common: More than 200 were called in last year in an area far from BP's well where the new sheen was reported, and 13 were reported Wednesday alone off Louisiana's coast.



ZippyDooDah's picture

BP wouldn't be hiring boats to lay boom around their well site just for the fun of it.  They are too cheap for that, as anyone with a brain should know by now.


Thanks for posting, BP P.R. department!

George Washington's picture

Maybe, maybe not:

Mr. Orr took a sample from the southern end of Breton Island National Park – and sure enough, lab-certified tests results established a fingerprint match to BP’s Macondo Well (see link to my previous post and test results below).

The most alarming part of the finding was not simply that the Breton Island sample had BP’s fingerprint on it, but that the test results were nearly identical to those from the fresh oil seen in the early days of the BP spill – instead of the heavily weathered and degraded oil we’ve come to expect in recent weeks and months.

DymanicDoug's picture

Cast iron balls...a freakin stupendous amazing pile...I mean 5lb cast iron balls. ..dropped on the fracture zone..till the gravity load on point overcomes uplift pressure...why iron shot ??..delivery to the bottom in a consistant manner...Chernobyl

In front of God and everyone these rotten bastards drilled through a mile of salt to get to that deposit......

Long on iron shot.....short beach front RE....Seafood

windcatcher's picture

Hurray! The relief well worked and the Macondo Oil Well is sealed! Sept. 2010.


Black out news coverage, continued secret chemical spraying, and seal the area off; no observers.


Those who follow the saga know it’s all a lie and that BP just needed time to distance themselves from the disaster that they created.


The oil could be cleaned up before it reached shore 50 miles away. The supertanker A-Whale could have been stationed at the site and siphoned the oil from the deep to the ship for separation. The separated oil could have been sent ashore for processing into useful product.


But Oh, the Expense! BP wouldn’t make billions in profit this year, only millions!

Papasmurf's picture

That's why Tony Hayward was all smiles after dropping 3$20B to Obama graft account.  He left for pennies on the dollar.

Smiley's picture

It keeps gnawing at my mind because I've done a few big geo repairs involving underground water intrusion.  What is to stop that BP well from undermining the area, creating a massive sinkhole, and having a MEGA blowout?  What the hell would we do if it was 100 feet wide all of a sudden?  I have that cold tingle run up my spine when I think of that well.

Cult of Criminality's picture

Not much, if the salt domes collapse,which once the warm water dissolves them (since they are now breached) another bad scenario can develop.

Its ok though the government is here to help you along with that super enviro green concious BP.the have even had exercises in that area.Not to mention the "Synthia" flesh eating dna manipulated eco hazard. if you do not know about that,it is very interesting check it out.

No forgiveness needed they know what they do.Like drilling in the worst possible place .They are educated and we are not so shut up and sit down.

there will be another crisis around the corner to focus attention on soon.Like that magical misery tour


bill1102inf's picture

In your opinion, would it only be 100 feet wide?? how about 1000 or 10,000 feet???  Can you Tsunami of death for 1 million+++ people, that area under the sea that contains oil is enourmous is it not??? imagine a 10 mile by 10 mile 'eruption' of rock pushed by trillions of lbs of pressure from below.  The wave would wash clear over all of FL...... 


and oh.  "We" as in humans, would do .... nothing.

Smiley's picture

100 feet is a very conservative speculation based on simply eroding the "plugged" well.  Honestly I don't see a mile wide monster as all that improbable if the oil under pressure continues to push itself through fissures in the rocky material making up the seafloor in that region.

You only need to move the sea floor a small distance if a large enough chunk of it moves at once to have a catastrophic set of conditions line up for coastal communities along the Gulf of Mexico.  The location is also relatively close to the Louisiana coast so they would have very little warning.

MsCreant's picture

This is an ongoing problem, no doubt of it in my mind, I won't buy Gulf seafood and encourage my family not to eat it.If the Alaska clean up went on for years afterwards, it seems logical that this spill (so much worse) would be going on too.

However, I have heard that the structure out there is not conducive to the kind of thing you are describing. I heard it is not big pockets of void that will cave and crater, but that they are draining porus rocks (more like a sponge holding the oil).

What are your thoughts on this?

falak pema's picture

won't, won't, won't...how about will, will, will. Makes a refreshing change, like a sponge soaking up sweet human sweat and smooth porous skin rather than gooey oil from a sickening sea side slick, created by a derelict rig, run by a huge prick that would not be fit to cook as boiled rooster inspite of his imposing tootser.

bill1102inf's picture

In your opinion, would it only be 100 feet wide?? how about 1000 or 10,000 feet???  Can you Tsunami of death for 1 million+++ people, that area under the sea that contains oil is enourmous is it not??? imagine a 10 mile by 10 mile 'eruption' of rock pushed by trillions of lbs of pressure from below.  The wave would wash clear over all of FL...... 


and oh.  "We" as in humans, would do .... nothing.

Tree of Liberty's picture

Thanks for George in staying on top of this and sharing what is really happening  in the GOM

HungrySeagull's picture

Wow. Could have fooled me.

Build a great rig and skimp on somethings and fuck it all up and it bites us all in the ass for a long time.

What a greasy slippery mess.


Build a bunch of rigs and drill the goddamn place DRY while we still have it below the seafloor.

Sofa King's picture

Hey, GW...stay out of your hot tub.

caerus's picture

oil's well that ends well...seriously this sucks...i like going to the coast

proLiberty's picture

If the original site is leaking through cracks, then the obvious solution is to suck the formation dry.  This effort would most certainly pay for itself.

Freddie's picture

They should have plugged it and redrilled the hole.

GW should do some reading.   Around the world there are cracks in the mantle where oil leaks out through the ocean floor.  This is normal. The earth's core due to heat is making oil around the world 24x7.

hardcleareye's picture

Right...... and unicorns shit skittles!


Bob's picture

Which, I've been assured, is also perfectly normal.