NEW YORK (
) -- The leak discovered in and around the
Macondo well are not a threat to the cap operation at this point, U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said at his daily press briefing on Monday afternoon. However, the Obama point man in the Gulf oil spill response said that it's not clear how long it would take for BP to resume containment operations if the cap has to be removed.
The well integrity test will continue for a 24-hour period that started Monday.
The Coast Guard admiral said in his press briefing on Monday afternoon that three anomalies have been discovered in the BP cap operation and well integrity test.
There is seepage three nautical miles from the wellhead, but the government does not believe that the seepage is related to the Macondo well or the well integrity test.
Within several hundred yards of the wellhead, bubbles are rising above the base of the blowout preventer, and on Sunday night, leakage was viewed by underwater cameras in the capping stack itself.
The most important thing though, according to Admiral Allen, is that the anomalies discovered and new hydrate formation inside the cap -- which in past BP operations has led to failure of caps -- are not inhibiting the cap operation.
Admiral Allen said that without any indication of a significant risk, one potential cause of the anomalies is simply that these conditions were pre-existing and the government and BP were not able to detect the anomalies before putting the new cap in place.
BP is required to respond to government requests on any new anomalies within a four-hour window of time.
The Coast Guard official made clear on the daily press briefing that the government and BP are treading a fine line with the cap, negotiating a trade-off between the long-term containment operations that have been suspended, versus the need to have a timeline to get those operations started up again if the cap proves ineffective.
Admiral Allen said the government was not prepared to say the well is "shut in" between now and the relief wells being a success. The official said there are too many uncertainties, however, he stressed that it's good to have no oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico right now. If events require BP to go back to a long-term containment system involving the ships siphoning oil at the surface, though, the government and BP are prepared to do so, but it means oil will be leaking back into the Gulf for up to a few days until long-term containment is again operational.
It seemed that BP and the government were not completely clear in the past few days on the fact that while they went ahead with the cap operation, the long-term containment option package was not moving in lock-step to cover in the event of a cap failure. In the event that the cap has to be abandoned, the long-term containment may not be ready to go and pick up the slack immediately, meaning oil flowing unimpeded into the Gulf.
The government and BP made the decision to go ahead with the cap because stopping the flow of oil into the Gulf seemed like the most important immediate goal, even though Admiral Allen stressed that the number one priority is still drilling the relief wells.
were all down on Monday as a result of the cap uncertainty.
-- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.
Follow TheStreet.com on
and become a fan on