BP stops oil as test starts

Thursday, July 15, 2010
By Paul Martin

Kim Landers
July 16, 2010

BP engineers stopped oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time since April as they shut all valves on a new cap placed on top of a fractured wellhead, a BP official said this morning.

“It is good to see no oil going into the Gulf of Mexico,” said senior vice president Kent Wells, but he cautioned: “We are just starting the test.”

He said the oil flow stopped as the last of three valves on a huge capping stack was shut, but engineers were keeping a close eye on the operation to see whether any oil began leaking again.

It was the biggest step forward in halting the worst oil spill in US history which has been flowing into the sea since an explosion sank a BP-leased rig on April 22, two days after a major explosion on the deepwater drilling platform.

“I’m very excited to see no oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico,” Mr Wells added.

US president Barack Obama says the stoppage is a “positive sign”.

BP will test the pressure under the cap every six hours and is expected to keep the oil trapped in the cap for 48 hours before it decides if the approach is working.

There is a risk that a massive pressure shift could send oil shooting up through a new leak on the sea floor.

But the cap remains a temporary fix until one of two relief wells that BP is drilling can permanently plug the leaking oil well.

BP was due to begin the tests earlier, but a leak in equipment used to seal the gusher, called rams, delayed the start.

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