BP Plc’s first successful effort to cap the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico was holding as engineers continued watching tensely for signs of more leaks in the coming hours and days.
While pressure readings were slightly below levels that authorities had hoped for, they remained “consistent” with a well that had not sprung any extra leaks, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is managing the government’s response to the disaster, said on Friday.
Instead, the lower but steady pressure could reflect the depletion of oil from the reservoir after nearly three months of constant flow, BP senior vice president Kent Wells told reporters.
Wells said the pressure of 6,700 pounds per square inch (psi) was “absolutely” reflecting “the model (as if) there is depletion.” Authorities had said a pressure reading of 7,500 psi or higher would be a clear sign that the well itself had remained intact.
Mr. Allen said the pressure stood at 6,700 psi on Friday afternoon and was still slowly rising. The lower-than-expected pressure could also mean that a leak had developed, but Wells said the pressure would not have risen to 6,700 psi if there had been a “real breach.” Mr. Wells and Mr. Allen indicated that their original intention of testing the new seal on the wellhead for 48 hours could extend beyond that period.
The goal is to make sure that the 4-km-long pipe reaching from the sea floor to the well bottom is not springing any leaks.
“No decision has been made about what we’ll do after 48 hours,” Mr. Wells said in a telephone briefing. Pressure readings are being taken every six hours, which would determine the next steps, he said.
The oil giant stopped all oil flowing out of the ruptured well in the Gulf Thursday as it began its critical test of the tight—fitting cap placed on the leak earlier in the week.
United States President Barack Obama on Friday said the temporary stoppage was “good news,” but cautioned that the job would not be finished “until we actually know that we’ve killed the well.” “The new cap is good news as we’ll either use it to stop the flow or use it capture all of the oil until the relief well is in place,” Mr. Obama said.
BP’s “integrity test” marked the first time in nearly three months that the oil giant has managed to stop the oil flow.
Successful or not, the cap was a temporary solution. BP hopes a relief well that could permanently seal the well will be finished by mid-August.
The disastrous ecological impact on the Gulf waters and coastline has dealt a painful blow to the economy of the four affected states.
BP said Friday it had paid out 201 million dollars to more than 32,000 applicants in financial compensation. In total, 114,000 people have applied for funds, of which 61,000 were rejected for insufficient proof of loss.
In other developments, the U.S. government rejected the giant Taiwan-owned skimming vessel “A Whale” for clean-up work in the Gulf of Mexico, saying it had recovered a “negligible” amount of BP oil during testing.
The owner, Taiwan Marine Transport Co, had converted the ship from a super-tanker weeks ago in a bid to help clean up the massive oil spill from the three-month-old gusher at the BP well site in the Gulf.