Robots installing a new containment cap on the ruptured BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico
Robots installing a new containment cap on the ruptured BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico

For the first time since the oil rig explosion in the Gulf  of Mexico, BP and federal officials are cautiously optimistic that they are close to shutting off the leaking  well. This comes after a new cap was installed Monday. Now comes the testing  phase.   

BP and federal officials hope that the new cap installed Monday will hold.

On Tuesday, they began to determine if the cap can withstand the enormous pressure of the gushing well.

National Incident Commander Thad Allen:  

"Based on the pressure readings we find at 6, 24, 48 hours," said Thad Allen. "And at that point, we will have a better idea of not only the pressure, but we will know something about the well base and it will ultimately tell us about the flow rate."

Allen says if the cap maintains high pressure readings over an extended period, it could fully contain the leak.

Pressure tests are beginning after technicians begin closing the three valves on the containment cap.

BP hopes that closing the valves will choke off the oil, leaking at up to 60,000 barrels a day.   

However, physicist Michio Kaku warns  that the new  containment cap is also risky.

"You could over pressurize and cause the pipe to explode, causing many leaks along the pipe," said Michio Kaku.

In the meantime fishermen and other residents along the Gulf of Mexico who have lost their livelihoods because of the  spill are hoping this latest effort will work.

"I'll get happy to see them at least cap it so we know what we have in the water," said Mack Breaux.

Even if the containment cap works, it is only a temporary fix. BP continues to drill two relief wells that will allow technicians to permanently plug the  ruptured well.

The first relief well is expected to be ready sometime in August.