US & Canada

Capped Gulf of Mexico oil well 'withstands pressure'

Workers cleaning up the beach on Grand Isle, Louisiana, on 16 July
Image caption Hopes are rising for the first time since the blast

Tests on BP's newly capped Gulf of Mexico oil well show pressure has been building up slightly as hoped with no signs of leakage, BP says.

BP vice-president Kent Wells said rising pressure "is giving us more and more confidence". However, tests have been extended for another 24 hours.

The new cap has managed to stop the flow of oil for the first time since a 20 April explosion killed 11 people.

The spill has been described as the worst environmental disaster in the US.

It has affected hundreds of miles of Gulf coastline since April, with serious economic damage to the region as tourists have avoided Gulf Coast beaches and fishing grounds have remained closed.

BP has put the costs of dealing with the disaster at over $3.5bn.

It has already paid out more than $200m (£130m) to 32,000 claimants. The company is evaluating a further 17,000 for payment and is seeking more information on 61,000 other claims.

The flow of oil was shut off at 1425 local time (1925 GMT) on Thursday, as part of a test of the well's integrity.

If the pressure within the new cap on the well stays high, it could mean there are no other leaks or ruptures within the well bore. If it drops, that could suggest problems.

On Saturday, as the initial testing was coming to an end, Mr Wells told a news briefing: "We're feeling more confident that we have integrity.

"At this point there's no evidence that we don't have integrity.

"That's very good and the fact that the pressure continues to rise is giving us more and more confidence as we are getting through the test."

BP is drilling a relief well which should intercept the leaking one at the end of July, enabling it to be sealed by mid-August.

NEW CAP FOR LEAKING OIL WELL
In June, BP placed a cap, known as an LMRP cap, over the top of the Deepwater Horizon well so oil could be collected at the surface. However, this continued to leak oil and has now been replaced with a better fitting device.
NEW CAP FOR LEAKING OIL WELL
When engineers removed the LMRP cap on 10 July, oil began to freely flow from the top of the blowout preventer once more. However, the Q4000 containment system continued to take some oil to the surface.
NEW CAP FOR LEAKING OIL WELL
Engineers then bolted on a new capping stack onto the blowout preventer (BOP). This allowed them to conduct a series of tests to see if the flow of oil could be stopped using the newly installed equipment.
NEW CAP FOR LEAKING OIL WELL
During the test the three ram capping stack has been closed and all sub-sea containment systems collecting the oil temporarily suspended, effectively blocking the flow of oil from the well.
NEW CAP FOR LEAKING OIL WELL
Once the tests have been successfully completed, BP will resume collecting oil. The Helix Producer ship was recently connected to the BOP to provide another collection route in addition to the Q4000 rig.
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