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BP Holding Back Oil, for Now; Ticker Stands Still

News agencies report:

Kent Wells, a BP PLC vice president, said at a news briefing that oil stopped flowing into the water at 2:25 p.m. CDT after engineers gradually dialed down the amount of crude escaping through the last of three valves in the 75-ton cap.

“I am very pleased that there’s no oil going into the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, I’m really excited there’s no oil going into the Gulf of Mexico,” Wells said.

Update 5 p.m. | President Obama was cautious in a brief statement to reporters: “”I think it is a positive sign. We’re still in the testing phase. I’ll have more to say about it tomorrow.”

BP’s COO Doug Suttles, speaking from the Gulf, said the work to kill the well will continue “until this flow has no ability to ever flow again.” He added that it’s “not the time to celebrate, yet.”

Update 6 p.m. | Retired Admiral Thad Allen reiterates that the stoppage is temporary, but a good sign:

“We’re encouraged by this development, but this isn’t over. Over the next several hours we will continue to collect data and work with the federal science team to analyze this information and perform additional seismic mapping runs in the hopes of gaining a better understanding on the condition of the well bore and options for temporary shut in of the well during a hurricane.

“It remains likely that we will return to the containment process using this new stacking cap connected to the risers to attempt to collect up to 80,000 barrels of oil per day until the relief well is completed.”

This is likely to be a temporary halt, but for now, we’ve halted our Gulf Leak Meter.

Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral heading up the federal response, told reporters in an earlier briefing the test will go in six-hour stages while BP checks pressure levels.

The hope, Allen said, is that pressure rises steadily beneath the new cap as valves are closed. If it falls, oil might be escaping from other parts of the well. In that case, BP would abandon the tests and restart containment efforts.

With the new cap, up to four surface ships can connect to the well to capture oil before it spills into the already-ravaged waters. Allen and BP have said new ships now in place can collect and process (or simply burn off) as much as 60,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day. Government scientists believe 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day are flowing from the well.

The cap is a temporary fix until relief wells are fully operational.

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