No sign of new leaks in capped oil well, BP says
A ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well shows no sign of seeping under the sea floor after two days of pressure tests, BP said on Saturday. BP sealed a new cap over the leak on Thursday, shutting off the rapid flow of crude oil into the Gulf.
AFP - A leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well has shown no sign of sub-seabed damage after two days of pressure tests following the placing of a new sealing cap, BP said Saturday.
"We're feeling more confident that we have integrity," said BP senior vice president Kent Wells. "At this point there's no evidence that we don't have integrity."
"That's very good and the fact that the pressure continues to rise is giving us more and more confidence as we are getting through the test."
BP sealed a cap placed over the leak on Thursday, shutting off the flow of crude into the ocean for the first time as it began a series of pressure tests intended to establish the condition of the wellbore below the seabed.
The tests are intended to determine whether the sealing cap can remain closed, or whether the wellbore could spring new leaks if the gushing oil is shut in.
Engineers had hoped to register readings of up to 8,000-9,000 pounds per square inch (psi), a high level that would have suggested no oil was leaking below the seabed.
But the reading on Saturday was around 6,745 psi, which suggests there are no leaks, but is not the iron-clad indication BP would have liked.
"We could have integrity or we could not have integrity between the 6,000 or 7,500 psi" range, Wells said.
The tests were expected to be completed in around 48 hours, ending on Saturday afternoon, but Wells said Saturday morning that they could continue beyond that point.
"There was always the provision that under certain circumstances the test could be extended," he said. "The longer the test goes, the more confidence we have in it."
If the tests prove inconclusive, or show that there may be damage to the wellbore that extends for several miles underneath the ocean floor, BP could decide to return to a containment system, which captures crude and siphons it up to waiting vessels on the sea surface.
The containment system should now be able to capture all the oil flowing from the leaking well, an estimated 35,000-60,000 barrels a day, but Wells warned that some crude would leak into the sea during the switch-over.
"If we do decide at any point... we want to open the well back up, initially we will need to flow back into the Gulf for some period of time, relatively short period of time, to bring the pressure down in the well so we can go back into our collection system," he said.