BP oil officials say they hope a cap will remain on a damaged oil well in the Gulf of Mexico until a permanent fix is completed. The cap has halted oil and natural gas from leaking for the past three days.
BP officials say there are no plans to reopen the well that was sealed Thursday as part of a pressure test. The test was supposed to end Saturday, but engineers say they are continuing to monitor the well to gather additional data.
BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said the cap is the best way to ensure no more oil leaks into Gulf waters, until engineers can seal the well with cement in the coming weeks.
"We are hopeful that, if the encouraging signs continue, we will be able to continue the integrity test all the way until we get the well killed." Suttles said. "Right now there is no target to open the well back up to flow."
Saturday, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is overseeing the response, said the test had been extended until Sunday. He added that U.S. officials and BP engineers were continuing to study the well to determine how to proceed.
BP's Doug Suttles said Sunday that teams have seen no evidence to suggest the cap system is causing problems and should be removed. He said pressure inside the well is continuing to rise slowly, suggesting there is no damage to the well pipe that runs nearly four kilometers under the sea floor.
Suttles added that the cap is reducing the environmental impact of the leak, which began nearly three months ago.
"We clearly have less oil on the water in the Gulf of Mexico, because not only have we stopped new oil from coming in, but we have recovered oil that is out there. We have had several days with no new shoreline impacts." Suttles said.
BP engineers say they are prepared to reopen the well if the pressure test shows signs of damage to the well. In that case, crews would use the current cap system to siphon oil into surface vessels.
Meanwhile, Suttles said drilling crews have only 30 meters remaining to finish a relief well that will be used to fill the original well with cement. He said the final operation to kill the well may be completed by late July or mid-August.