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Gulf oil spill: Cap test going according to plan

July 16, 2010 |  8:16 am

BP was proceeding with a pressure test Friday that will determine if a newly installed cap can be used to seal the damaged well that has pumped a river of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Less than halfway through the test, BP senior vice president Kent Wells said he was "encouraged by the results."

"The pressures we've seen so far are consistent with the engineering analysis work that BP had done," Wells said Friday morning.

The cap has at least temporarily plugged the gusher of oil that has been fouling the gulf since late April, but officials want to make sure the oil is not leaking from well pipes beneath the sea floor, a situation that could make matters worse.

They are gauging pressure in the wellhead. If it rises to a certain point and stays steady, that is a signal that the well pipes are intact. If it doesn't, that is a sign the well hole is leaking. BP would then open the cap to let oil escape from the top of the well.

So far, Wells said, the pressure has "been a very steady build, as predicted."

The testing will last into the weekend, followed by seismic soundings of the seabed to detect any subterranean seepage.

In the meantime, Wells said engineers are carefully preparing for the final stages of drilling a relief well that will be the ultimate fix.

-- Bettina Boxall      


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