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Gulf oil spill: What if BP taps leaking Macondo well again?

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For its part, BP says it’s too early to think about any commercial development of the Macondo prospect. “At this point, we genuinely want to get this shut-in, stop the flow of oil, and clean up,” says Toby Odone, a spokesman for BP in Houston.

But before the explosion that killed 11 workers, BP had considered the field viable because there were nearby oil fields. “In an infrastructure sense it is easier to develop a small find if it’s tied to another facility rather than if it’s away from other discoveries," says Mr. Odone. "As far as I know that was the case with this.”

BP, however, might also decide not to expend any more money on the prospect other than ongoing efforts to seal the well and drill relief wells.

“With all the hassle, maybe they’ll decide its better to seal it up and forget about it,” says Rick Mueller, an energy analyst at Energy Security Analysis, Inc. in Wakefield, Mass.

Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, estimated the Macondo well contained about 50 million to 100 million barrels of oil in an interview with the Houston Chronicle on May 6. This would make it a relatively modest discovery. By contrast, BP announced on Sept. 2, 2009, what it termed a “giant” discovery from its Tiber prospect in the Gulf. Energy analysts say the term is usually associated with oil fields of at least 250 million barrels.

Quest for deepwater oil continues

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