So, the Macondo gusher has been capped and BP can breathe a sigh of relief. Well, not quite yet. The news has so far been, quite rightly, met with cautious optimism and this is only the end of the beginning for the company.
While the development is a symbolic turning point, integrity tests continue and could take up to 48 hours to complete. But, will the cap actually work?
Pressure readings and sonar are being used by engineers and scientists to examine the condition of the well bore, which extends 13,000 ft down from the well head – keep in mind it is already 5,000 feet under the surface of the gulf – to the reservoir of oil. The worry is if the well bore is damaged, oil could spew from the side and form a new gusher elsewhere on the sea bed. High pressure readings mean the well bore has retained its integrity and oil is staying inside and pushing up against the cap. While the cap ensures the flow is stopped, work can meanwhile resume to plug efforts permanently . But low pressure readings indicate that oil is escaping through the cracks and BP would then be forced to open the cap again and go back to collecting oil in surface ships.