One of the things I hate about our media is how they simply refuse to inform their readers, and instead are always focused on process or the immediate political impact. Here is the NY Times discussing the seepage:
A pressure test of BP’s undersea well that has kept fresh oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico will be allowed to continue for another day, despite concerns about potential new problems near the well, the government official overseeing the spill response said Monday.
The government ordered BP to step up monitoring of the well after “undetermined anomalies” were discovered on the seafloor nearby. The government’s top official in the Gulf response, retired Coast Guard admiral Thad W. Allen, said that government scientists had talked late Sunday with BP about a seep and the possible detection of methane around the well.
A seep — usually a flow of hydrocarbons from the seafloor — could be evidence that oil, gas or both are escaping from the well up to the seafloor, which could prompt the government to order BP to remove the cap and resume oil collection. But seeps also occur naturally.
Did that clear things up for you? No? Me either. Here’s the WaPo:
The federal government, concerned about seepage near BP’s damaged oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, authorized the company Monday to keep the well shut for another 24 hours provided that BP engineers continue to “rigorously monitor” the sea floor for any signs that the situation is worsening.
In a statement early Monday, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, the official in charge of the U.S. response to the oil spill disaster, said a federal science team conferred with BP representatives Sunday night on specific issues, “including the detection of a seep near the well and the possible observation of methane over the well.” He said the federal scientists “got the answers they were seeking and the commitment from BP to meet their monitoring and notification obligations.”
The conference call followed a letter to BP that Allen released Sunday night. It pointed to unanswered questions about monitoring systems that the company committed to as a condition for the government to extend an operation in which BP used a new capping mechanism to shut down the well and conduct pressure tests. The letter noted that during the operation, called a well integrity test, scientists detected a “seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head.”
In his statement Monday, Allen said that “monitoring and full analysis of both the seepage and methane will continue in coordination with the science team.”
Ok. So Thad Allen is telling BP to do some tests, but wtf is seepage? Why should I be concerned? Aren’t things always seeping up from the floor of the ocean? Anyone? CNN?:
Testing on a capped oil well in the Gulf of Mexico will continue for another day, officials said Monday, as the federal government says it has received satisfactory answers from BP regarding a seep near the well.
Thad Allen, the federal government’s oil spill response director, said Monday that a federal science team and BP representatives had discussed several issues during a Sunday night conference call, including the “possible observation of methane over the well.”
“During the conversation, the federal science team got the answers they were seeking and the commitment from BP to meet their monitoring and notification obligations,” Allen said in a statement.
On Sunday, Allen said that testing had revealed a “seep a distance from the well.” He ordered the company to notify the government if other leaks were found.
“When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours,” Allen said in a letter to BP Chief Managing Director Bob Dudley released late Sunday.
Yeah. I still have no clue why I should be concerned about seepage. Fortunately, someone emailed me in response to a tweet I made asking what the hell is meant by a seep:
…it means that the entire oil reserve’s casing might be collapsing. To give you a visual metaphor: they are currently trying to fix the plumbing in the bathroom, maybe stop the shower from leaking. What might be happening now amounts to the huge water main under the house breaking and causing the entire house to sink, bathroom and all.
The problem is that the well is deep underground and under high pressure, so once it springs a leak it just worms its way to the surface through a thousand crevices and makes them bigger and bigger over time. You can’t “plug” them because… well, to use another metaphor, imagine you have a garden hose that’s blocked by a pillow. Once the water works its way through the pillow and soaks through, you have water leaking from every fiber of the thing, and putting a little rubber patch on any given part of the pillow is really just pointless. This is why the government was worried about capping the well: it amounted to blocking the only escape route for the pressure, thereby forcing out of other little holes in the compromised reservoir, which as I said become bigger and bigger with time.
If the reservoir casing is compromised, we’re fucked, end of story.
Now granted, CNN, the NY Times, and the WaPo can’t drop f-bombs, but which of those actually informed you why the seep was a concern? Why doesn’t every MSM story about the “seepage” include a simple description like that to inform people? Instead, we are told what the government and BP are “doing,” but no one understands what they are doing or why.
Am I just being nitpicky? Or shouldn’t the media recognize that their readers most likely don’t have advanced degrees in oceanography and geology or whatever fields would cover this sort of thing? Or is it that the reporters themselves don’t understand it and therefore can’t explain it as succinctly as my emailer?