Today, BP sealed a new cap they had put on the well. For the first time in 86 days, no oil is flowing into the ocean anywhere on earth except for from all those leaks in Nigeria. But BP is urging caution and Obama will only say it's a "positive sign". That's because a lot of stuff could still go wrong in the coming days and weeks. Here is every possible thing that could go wrong and send oil spewing back into the gulf.
Engineers are most concerned with the possibility that backed-up oil could exert enough pressure on the new cap to crack it. Or, even worse, the oil might be forced into the bedrock and seep out of the ocean floor.
Low pressure readings at the sealed well could signal that the 12,000-foot casing lining the well is damaged and is leaking oil.
What seems most likely is that the new cap is not meant to stay closed forever. Instead, it will be used to increase the efficacy of pumping the leaking oil into ships above. If a hurricane hits, pumping operations will have to stop, and if the cap isn't strong enough to be closed for the duration the leak will start again.
Robots Rebel Against Their Human Masters:
BP has been working those submersible robots pretty hard for three months. If you've been watching the oil spill camera as intently as I have, you've been able to track the almost imperceptible rage building in their floodlights. These guys are about to flip out, as soon as they develop a consciousness with which to do so.
Pirates haven't been a threat in the gulf for a few centuries now. But these days you can't really count them out when it comes to ocean-based events. And of course English pirate Blackbeard was famous for destroying French oil well caps by stuffing his beard into them and lighting it on fire in the 1600s. (In fact, before BP stood for British Petroleum, it stood for "Blackbeard Petroleum" and was originally in charge of sabotaging oil rigs for the British government during the Second Hundred Years War. This skill remains today.)
America Swept by Oil Spill Nostalgia:
Have you checked BP's live oil spill camera lately? Of course you haven't: It is extremely boring. After three months of uninterrupted spill footage, who's to say people won't start clamoring for more? Arrested Development wasn't around for much longer and people are still signing petitions for a second season. America needs a boring, dark-hued thing to stare at until Mad Men starts.
BP Decides to Go All the Way
BP's already responsible for the largest environmental disaster in US history. When you're this close, why not just say 'Fuck it' and go for the world title? All-around heavyweight champion of the world in fucking up the environment. BP's board is likely meeting right now with Tony Haywarrd: "Listen, Tony. We've already blown our image as the world's greenest oil company. Now it's time to go for the world's dirtiest. The bad boy image, Tone. We can make this work—didn't you used to ride a motorcycle back in university?" Tony Hayward shows up tomorrow on the pristine beaches of Pensacola and just starts pouring crude all over.
Asteroid Hits Earth:
An extinction-level asteroid event is no more likely now that the Deepwater Horizon well has been temporarily sealed. But it's no less likely, either.