Jul 17, 2010 3:43 PM by Chris Welty

Well Cap's Trial Ends With No Word on What's Next

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - BP's 48-hour trial run of a cap blocking oil
from streaming into the Gulf of Mexico ended Saturday with no word
on what happens next.
BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said the company would communicate if
the trial was stopped. With no word as 3:25 p.m. EDT passed, video
footage showed the well was still plugged.
The cap could be reopened if scientists decide it could create
an underground breach. It also could be reopened if they need to do
certain seafloor mapping, or if they want to contain the oil by
instead drawing it up to vessels on the surface.
Kent Wells, a BP PLC vice president, said earlier that engineers
glued to an array of sensors were seeing no evidence of oil
escaping into the water or the sea floor. Undersea robots patrolled
the well site for signs of trouble.
A new breach underground was a major concern going into the
trial, because oil breaking out of pipes in the bedrock would be
harder to control and could endanger plans for a permanent plug.
"We're feeling more comfortable," Wells said on a morning
conference call, but cautioned: "The test is not over."
BP and the federal point man for the disaster, retired Coast
Guard Adm. Thad Allen, have said could decide to reopen the cap at
least partly after the 48-hour trial period ends Saturday around
3:30 p.m. EDT, although it's not clear what conditions would prompt
them to do so.
Allen will make that call, Wells said, and could also decide to
extend the trial run. There was no word from Allen after the 48
hours passed.
BP shut valves in the cap Thursday, stopping the flow of oil for
the first time since the April 20 explosion on the BP-leased oil
rig Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers and unleashed the spill
5,000 feet below the sea.
With the cap working like a giant cork, scientists kept watch in
case the buildup of pressure underground caused new leaks.
Pressure readings after 41 hours were 6,745 pounds per square
inch and rising slowly, Wells said, below the 7,500 psi that would
have reassured scientists the well was not leaking. He said
pressure continued to rise by around 2 psi per hour, compared to a
range between 2 and 10 psi BP and the government provided late
Friday. A low pressure reading, or a falling one, could mean the
oil is escaping.


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