The US government ordered BP to provide a plan for reopening its capped well in the Gulf of Mexico after engineers found seepage and possible methane gas near the leak site.
Earlier yesterday, BP officials expressed hope that extended tests on the cap which began on Thursday could continue until relief wells are in place to permanently shut off the flow of oil.
But the discovery of seepage could mean there are still leaks in the damaged well.
The US government’s plan is to pipe oil to the surface, which would ease pressure on the well but would require up to three more days of oil spilling into the Gulf.
Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer, said last night: “No one associated with this whole activity … wants to see any more oil flow into the Gulf of Mexico.
“Right now we don’t have a target to return the well to flow.”
Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is in charge of the White House’s reponse to the spill, ordered BP to provide a plan for reopening the well by 1am today (UK time).
In a letter to BP managing director Bob Dudley he said: “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.”