After two days of waiting and watching as a containment cap kept new oil from flowing into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time since a spill disaster began, officials decided Saturday to extend a test on BP’s broken well for another 24 hours.
“As we continue to see success in the temporary halt of oil from the leak, the U.S. government and BP have agreed to allow the well integrity test to continue another 24 hours,” Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said in a statement.
“When this test is eventually stopped, we will immediately return to containment, using the new, tighter sealing cap with both the Helix Producer and the Q4000. Additional collection capacity of up to 80,000 barrels per day is also being added in the coming days,” he said.
Oil from the broken wellhead stopped flowing midafternoon Thursday, 85 days after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig started the gusher. BP officials initially said pressure tests on the well using a new 75-ton containment cap would last 48 hours.
Engineers are checking pressure levels inside the well every six hours, trying to determine if it and casing are intact and whether any new leaks are being triggered under the sea floor. Reports say scientists have been encouraged by both pressure tests and temperature readings from the well.
When collection of oil by surface vessels resumes, it is likely that some oil may again flow into the Gulf. The permanent fix for the leak is a relief well, two of which are still being drilled. Officials have said a relief well could be in place by mid-August.
Officials also announced Saturday that after an operational review, the so-called “super skimmer” cleanup vessel will not be deployed as part of the oil clean up effort.
“Because the oil consists of relatively smaller patches and numerous ribbons spread very thinly across a great distance, the mission has required the deployment of smaller skimmers with the agility needed to maneuver and pursue oil in both crowded and open waters,” a statement from the Deepwater Horizon response center said.
Find all of the NewsHour’s coverage of the oil disaster and watch BP’s live video feed of the broken well here.