BP oil officials have expressed growing confidence that an undersea oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has stopped leaking after spewing oil for nearly three months. Crews halted the leak on Thursday as part of a pressure test on the damaged well.
BP officials initially planned to conduct the pressure test over a 48-hour period, ending around mid-day Saturday. If pressure conditions remained high in the well, however, experts said the test could continue for as long as necessary to gather more data from the well.
BP senior vice president Kent Wells said Saturday that engineers are continuing with the test. He said pressure was rising slowly inside the well, which suggests there is no damage or breaches in the well pipe.
"We're feeling more comfortable that we have integrity," he said. "The test is not over, we haven't made final conclusions, and I want to stress that. But at this point there is no evidence we don't have integrity and that is very good."
BP officials launched the test to assess possible damage to the well pipe which runs nearly four kilometers under the sea floor. Engineers feared the pipe may have been damaged after the Deepwater Horizon drill rig exploded and sank in April, killing 11 workers on the rig.
During the pressure test, BP engineers are continuing to monitor the well with seismic, sonar and other equipment. Wells said BP also is getting assistance from a team with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.
"We are bringing in a NOAA vessel to also do surveys. Again, we are looking for could there be potentially breaches in other places," he said.
Wells said current pressure readings suggest the oil reservoir feeding the well may have begun to run low, after spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico since April.
If pressure readings begin to fall, BP officials say they would stop the pressure test to minimize possible damage to the well pipe. In that case, BP has deployed four vessels to the site to siphon oil from the well and prevent it from entering Gulf waters.