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Gulf of Mexico oil spill stops
Washington, Jul 16 (IANS):
Published on 17 Jul. 2010 12:19 AM IST
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For the first time in nearly three months, the gushing oil from BP’s ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico has stopped with a robotic submersible slowly closing a valve, but America’s worst environmental disaster is not yet over.
The technological breakthrough came as BP finally began an “integrity test” Thursday, 87 days into the crisis, which began with the April 20 blowout that killed 11 workers and sent the burning rig Deepwater Horizon to the bottom of the gulf.
The oil stopped flowing shortly before 2.25 p.m., a BP official said. And a series of cameras some 5,000 feet below the surface clearly showed the halt - a far different scene from the images day after day of a relentless flow. The move was lauded by officials as a positive step, accompanied by a strong note of caution that the cutoff was simply part of the test, as BP and government experts tried to assess how the well is holding up.
“I think it is a positive sign,” President Barack Obama said carefully when asked about the oil flow after he made a statement about Wall Street reform’s passage in the Senate. “We’re still in the testing phase. I’ll have more to say about it tomorrow.” Louisiana’s Indian-American Governor Bobby Jindal, leading reporters on a tour of an island one of the worst-hit states is building to stop incoming oil, said: “It would be premature to declare ‘Mission Accomplished’.”
“This fight’s not over for Louisiana,” said Jindal, worried that public attention and federal help might slacken if the well remains sealed.
He said: “Work to revitalise our coast won’t be done until our waters and our shores are completely clean and our wildlife, our communities and our coastal industries are 100 percent restored.”
BP said that the stacking cap, lowered in place earlier this week, has never been deployed at such depths or under such conditions and, therefore, there were no guarantees on how well it would contain the oil.
In the test, BP closed off - one by one - the valves on the cap system through which oil could escape. If at any time the pressure is deemed too low, meaning that oil is escaping through another source in the breached well, the testing would stop.
BP cautioned that the oil cutoff, while welcomed, isn’t likely to go beyond 48 hours. Valves are expected to open after that to resume siphoning oil to two ships on the surface, the Q4000 and Helix Producer, as government and BP officials assess the data and decide what to do next.
Two more ships are due to join them in coming weeks, bringing containment capacity to 80,000 barrels of oil a day, more than high-end estimates of how much oil had been leaking.
BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles told CNN that while no leaks were apparent, “it’s way to early to celebrate”.
Retired Admiral Thad Allen, who is overseeing the government’s response to the spill, said in a statement it “remains likely” that sending the oil to containment ships will be the avenue officials decide to pursue after the test, until the ultimate solution is readied - sealing the well by pumping mud and cement through one of two relief wells being drilled.
The wells are expected to be completed in August. The second one serves as a backup to the first.
Allen said experts also will examine options for shutting off the well again temporarily, if there’s a hurricane.
Meanwhile, from state and local officials around the Gulf region, there were warnings that the cleanup from the spill could take years.

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