Jul 16, 2010 5:18 PM by Melissa Canone

6 Hours of Testing Before Cap May Have to be Reopened

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Pressure readings have been less than ideal
from the new cap shutting oil into BP's busted well, but the crude
will remain locked in while engineers look for evidence of whether
there is an undiscovered leak, the federal pointman for the
disaster said Friday.
Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said on a conference call
that pressure readings from the cap have not reached the level that
would show there are no new leaks in the well.
Allen said BP's test of the cap, which started 24 hours
previously by shutting three valves and stopping the flow of oil
into the water, would continue for at least 6 hours. It was
scheduled to last up to 48 hours.
He said the developments were "generally good news" but needed
close monitoring.
Allen said there are two possible reasons being debated by
scientists on the project for why the pressure hasn't risen as high
as desired: The reservoir that is the source of the oil could be
depleting after a three-month spill, or there could be an
undiscovered leak somewhere down in the well.
"We don't know because we don't know the exact condition of the
well bore," Allen said.
He said the test will go ahead for another 6-hour period before
being reassessed to see if BP needs to reopen the cap and go back
to piping some of the oil to ships on the surface.
If it were reopened, Allen said, "There's no doubt there would
be some discharge into the environment."
Pressure readings after 24 hours were about 6,700 pounds per
square inch and rising slowly, Allen said, below the 7,500 psi that
would clearly show the well was not leaking. He said pressure
continued to rise between 2 and 10 psi per hour.
He said a seismic probe of the surrounding sea floor found no
sign of a leak in the ground, one of the major concerns because oil
erupting into the surroundings would be harder to contain and could
weaken the well before it is plugged for good.
The cap is a temporary measure. Even if it holds, BP needs to
plug the gusher with cement and mud deep underground, where the
seal will hold more permanently than any cap from above could.


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