BP’s shares on Monday fell almost 5 per cent as traders feared some of the company’s oil was still seeping from the Macondo well despite the newly-installed containment cap holding back most of the leak.

The concern was raised in a letter from Admiral Thad Allen, the highest-ranking US official dealing with the day-to-day response in the US Gulf of Mexico.

The sharply-worded correspondence makes clear that the US government does not intend to reduce its demands on BP following the success of the containment cap.

It comes as David Cameron, UK prime minister, flies to Washington on a two-day visit to the US that will see him seek to underpin support for BP.

Mr Cameron is to meet US President Barack Obama on Tuesday, knowing that the White House talks will be overshadowed by the controversy involving BP following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Mr Cameron knows the issue will be raised when he meets Congressional leaders, amid allegations from some senators that BP lobbied for the early release of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber freed by Scottish authorities last year. The senators charge that BP helped secure Mr Megrahi’s freedom to improve relations with the oil-rich north African country.

In his letter to Bob Dudley, the BP executive in charge of the company’s response to the spill, Admiral Allen wrote: “Given the current observations from the test, including the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head, monitoring of the seabed is of paramount importance during the test period.

“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.”

The concerns came after BP issued cautious weekend statements about its success in capping the wel l.

BP’s shares closed in London at 388p, down 4.7 per cent. Last week they had recovered to trade above 400p, from lows around 300p last month, as the company made progress towards containing the leak.

In later trading BP’s New York-listed shares were down 3.6 per cent to $35.75, off their July peak of $38.92 reached at the end of last week.

BP on Monday said it was co-operating with Mr Allen’s demands and that engineers were checking whether the seepage detected near Macondo was coming from its well or elsewhere. The company said the containment well was successfully holding back the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico with no signs of a feared blow out, meaning it could remain in place until the relief well shut off the leak permanently. BP hopes to have completed the relief well by the middle of next month.

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