BP tests continue as officials explore new option


New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) — Critical tests on the capped well in the Gulf of Mexico will continue Wednesday as scientists work on the ultimate solution to end the oil disaster.

Pressure testing on the capped well was extended for another 24 hours Tuesday, said Thad Allen, the federal government’s point man on the spill.

The tests on the new, tightly fitting containment cap began Thursday and are designed to determine the effectiveness of the cap.

Though the new cap has stopped the incessant flow of oil into the Gulf, government officials and BP have said that the cap on the well is only a temporary fix for the oil disaster that started on April 20.

BP officials are still working on the permanent fix, relief wells that are slated to be in place by the end of July. Officials are also exploring a new tactic called “static kill” to help stop the oil’s flow.

The “static kill” would involve pumping mud into the well to force oil back into the reservoir below, officials from BP have said, noting that the option could succeed where similar attempts have failed because pressure in the well is lower than expected.

Geologist Arthur Berman said on CNN’s “American Morning” on Tuesday that the relative simplicity of a static kill makes it an attractive option for BP.

“I think the reason that they’re considering it is because they’ve yet to intercept the well bore,” Berman said. “They’re very close, a few feet away with the relief well, as everyone knows. But to actually intersect the 7-inch pipe does involve a bit of technology and accuracy, whereas if they do the static kill through the existing well bore at the top, there’s less uncertainty about their ability to actually get the mud into the pipe.”

No visible oil has flowed from the well since Thursday, when BP closed all the valves in the new custom-made cap that was installed July 12. Federal officials said Tuesday that one reported leak is coming from another old well a couple miles away and is inconsequential.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was visiting Washington on Tuesday, said he “completely understands” the anger that “exists … across America” regarding the oil well operated by BP that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico three months ago.

“It is BP’s role to cap the leak” and compensate people affected by it, he said during a visit with President Barack Obama. Cameron said he is in regular touch with the leadership of BP, a British-based company.

Two House subcommittees held a joint hearing Tuesday to investigate the role of the Interior Department in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Legislators are trying to figure out who’s responsible for the crisis and how better government regulation of energy producers might help avert such disasters in the future.

A report in London pointed the finger at BP’s beleaguered chief executive Tony Hayward.

Hayward is preparing to step down from his position within the next 10 weeks, the Times of London reported Tuesday, citing “sources” close to the company.

Hayward and his management choices have drawn a barrage of criticism since BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig accident began spewing oil. Its share price hammered, BP is fighting to ensure that it has the resources to pay the billions it now faces in fines, cleanup expenses and compensation claims from local workers and businesses.

There is a “growing expectation” that Hayward will announce his departure in late August or September, the Times reported. “You would be hard-pushed to find anyone within the company who does not think he is irreparably damaged —

both by his own performance and by the event itself,” the newspaper quoted one company insider as saying.

BP strongly denied the Times’ report.

“There is no truth in this article,” Daren Beaudo, a BP spokesman based in Houston, Texas, told CNN. “Mr. Hayward is not leaving.”

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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