The disaster. Horrible. (HO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

You may have seen the story that Steve Mufson and I did this morning about Macondo oil being found on the surface of the gulf. A sheen was observed in September and tests match it to the oil from BP’s well that blew out on April 20, 2010. This doesn’t mean the well has exploded or anything catastrophic like that. It’s not a huge amount of oil, just a thin sheen, about 3 miles long and 300 yards wide. But i’s still coming to the surface, either steadily or intermittently. Something is going on here.

The oil is likely — experts tell us — from the downed riser, the 18-inch pipe that used to connect the well to the Deepwater Horizon on the surface. The oil has been tested independently by the Coast Guard and BP and has signatures that suggest its from the riser. For example, it has no gas in it, I’m told, and you’d expect oil from the deep reservoir to be gaseous. As a NOAA scientist Frank Csulak told me, “It’s what we in the business consider a dead oil.” He said the oil at the surface at any moment may be less than 10 gallons. So this isn’t Deepwater Horizon II, apparently.

That said....No one has yet splash an ROV to look at what’s happening down there. The Coast Guard has ordered BP and Transocean to come up with a plan to investigate. The two companies don’t like each other much these days. They may be thinking that the other guy is responsible here — because although BP owns the well, the riser belongs to Transocean. Whatever! It’s no great technological challenge to take a look. There’s a lot of material still down there on the gulf floor, not least of which is the charred rig itself.

The gulf is pocked with abandoned oil wells — literally tens of thousands of them. How carefully were they plugged with cement and capped? What’s the status of all the pipes that lie on the gulf floor, turning it into a vast machine for extracting oil?

Perhaps this latest echo of the 2010 disaster will spur the industry and the regulators to find new ways to monitor the long-term consequences of offshore drilling and head of the next big disaster.


What Boz said about the Nats: We got here with great starting pitching but it just ain’t the rotation it was earlier in the year. Still, you gotta believe. Fight ‘til the last dog dies. One win today and we have home field advantage for Game 5. Believe.

[But also call in the Navy Seals if necessary.]


I am stunned by the Lance Armstrong story. Not that I can’t believe he cheated. But this alleges an extremely elaborate doping ring and cover-up. That’s got to be a record-breaking number of lies.