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BP: Gulf oil spill halted by cap in test

A jackup barge, a barge and a tugboat serve as an offshore staging area for BP oil spill cleanup operations off the Mississippi Coast July 14, 2010. BP continued its efforts to stem the flow of oil from its Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in April. UPI/A.J. Sisco..
A jackup barge, a barge and a tugboat serve as an offshore staging area for BP oil spill cleanup operations off the Mississippi Coast July 14, 2010. BP continued its efforts to stem the flow of oil from its Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in April. UPI/A.J. Sisco.. | License Photo

VENICE, La., July 15 (UPI) -- A BP official said Thursday a test of the new containment cap on the well gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico has stopped the flow of crude.

BP engineers closed all three valves on the massive containment cap and oil stopped spewing into the water a mile below the surface for the first time since April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 workers.

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"Update: NO OIL FLOWING INTO THE GULF #oilspill," BP posted on Twitter at 2:52 CDT.

"We will be monitoring the pressure carefully every 6 hours," BP Vice President Kent Wells said during an interview with NPR. "It was quite something to see."

Thad Allen, the retired U.S. Coast Guard admiral overseeing the U.S. government's response to the gulf oil disaster, exhibited restraint in a statement about the latest developments.

"We're encouraged by this development, but this isn't over," Allen said. "Over the next several hours we will continue to collect data and work with the federal science team to analyze this information and perform additional seismic mapping runs in the hopes of gaining a better understanding on the condition of the well bore and options for temporary shut in of the well during a hurricane. It remains likely that we will return to the containment process using this new stacking cap connected to the risers to attempt to collect up to 80,000 barrels of oil per day until the relief well is completed."

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The integrity test could last up to 48 hours to determine if the well is intact, or if pressure drops, to determine if oil is leaking from someplace other than the well head. If the well is compromised, BP has said it would reopen the valves on the cap and pipe oil to be captured by ships on the surface.

During a daily technical briefing earlier Thursday, BP officials said they removed and replaced the leaking choke line that forced suspension of well integrity test preparations, CNN reported.

The successful repair cleared the way for closing the containment cap and other well integrity testing, officials said.

BP said it restored collection procedures aboard the Helix Producer and Q4000 as they removed the leaking device.

Two relief wells, expected to be completed in August, are seen as the final solution to the oil disaster.

In Washington, the Interior Department's chief oil and gas regulatory official told BP it must report all oil and gas-related activities at the damaged well and pay royalties on all oil and gas captured from the leaking well.

The company also will be liable for royalties on lost or wasted oil and gas if it is determined that negligence or regulatory violations caused or played a role in the Deepwater Horizon explosion and leak, the department said Thursday in a release.

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Michael R. Bromwich, director of the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, officially notified BP of its reporting responsibility and royalty liability in a July 15 letter to Guy Otwell of BP America's Tax Department. Bromwich noted if the company failed to fulfill its obligations, it could be considered a knowing and willful violation of the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act.

Bromwich's letter also said the department reserves "any and all rights and remedies available to the United States arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill."

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