New Cap Stops BP Gulf Oil Leak Tests are being conducted on a new cap that has been placed over the broken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. Engineers want to make sure it can contain the geyser of crude. So far, no oil is spewing from the well. But a BP official is warning that the flow of oil could resume.
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New Cap Stops BP Gulf Oil Leak

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New Cap Stops BP Gulf Oil Leak

New Cap Stops BP Gulf Oil Leak

New Cap Stops BP Gulf Oil Leak

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Tests are being conducted on a new cap that has been placed over the broken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. Engineers want to make sure it can contain the geyser of crude. So far, no oil is spewing from the well. But a BP official is warning that the flow of oil could resume.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

And there's skepticism outside the Gulf too about how long the well will stay shut down - and apparently for good reason. NPR science correspondent Richard Harris is with us now live to talk about all this. And Richard, BP gave a progress report this morning on how it's all going. What did they say?

RICHARD HARRIS: So they'll spend today analyzing the information more. BP vice president Kent Wells says their undersea rovers have been doing visual surveys and doing sonar surveys of the sea floor, and they see no oil or gas leaking up from the sea floor, so at least that's an encouraging sign, and they're planning to do some more detailed surveys about that later on.

LOUISE KELLY: Okay, now, assuming that all that goes well, at the end of this testing and analysis period, what happens? Will they go back to trying to collect some of the oil that was coming out of the well?

HARRIS: It depends what they find. And the best case scenario is that the well will simply remain shut. In fact, just a few moments ago President Obama said he still hopes that's an option.

BARACK OBAMA: This new cap and the additional equipment being placed in the Gulf will be able to contain up to 80,000 barrels a day, which should allow us to capture nearly all the oil until the well is killed.

HARRIS: So if they do have to recollect the oil, it won't be, you know - at first we'll see more into the Gulf, but eventually they can collect a whole bunch of it. The president mentioned 80,000 barrels a day. The scientific estimates are there's less than that coming up, so that's got a margin of error.

LOUISE KELLY: Okay, lot's of questions. And I guess one of the other big unknowns, of course, Richard, is the weather, which has complicated operations throughout this ordeal. We're coming up to what's forecast to be a record-breaking hurricane season. I assume planning is going on for how to deal with that.

HARRIS: So that's part of the equation here, is, you know, can they maybe temporarily shut the well if there's a hurricane, or what? I mean that's a - that's a very important question that they're wrestling with.

LOUISE KELLY: And just to remind people what we're seeing now - a temporary fix. There's still this permanent solution that they're working on.

HARRIS: In the next couple of weeks, it should get there - that solution, we hope, will be end of July, sometime in August.

LOUISE KELLY: Okay, thank you, Richard.

HARRIS: My pleasure.

LOUISE KELLY: That's NPR's Richard Harris.

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