Leaking well capped, tests planned ahead of stoppage attempt
The most ambitious attempt yet to halt the oil spewing oil from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico was underway late Monday as a cap was successfully placed on the damaged wellhead, oil company BP Plc's undersea video feed showed, dpa reported.
US Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the presidentially appointed national incident commander, said in a statement that "significant progress has been made" in the so-called capping stack installation, which contains a series of valves.
Starting early Tuesday, BP engineers plan to begin closing the new valves, gradually raising pressure in the well, Allen said. The tests are intended to show if the wellhead is intact enough to withstand the pressure of a complete or partial shutdown.
If not, the new cap should at least allow much improved collection of oil from the leaking well.
The tests could take from six to 48 hours or more, Allen said.
Meanwhile, BP is drilling a relief well, which is hoped to intersect the existing well shaft next month, allowing a permanent closure of the well, which has created massive undersea pollution and caused oil to wash up in nearly Louisiana and other states on the eastern Gulf Coast.