British oil company giant discovered a leak in a vital part of the undersea equipment that immediately forced them to interrupt and briefly postpone the test that may determine if the leaking gulf well can be sealed with a new cap, pushing back the collection of any meaningful data until later Thursday.
As the company instigated the procedure of shutting off a series of valves on the equipment that sits atop the well Wednesday evening, workers noticed a leak on one of the lines, called a choke line, that diverts the oil.
The company dismantled and replaced the faulty system with a new one, BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said in a Thursday morning conference call with reporters.
“Now we just need to go forward and retest it to make sure this one’s fine, and then we’ll go forward with the test,” Wells said.
The test, it requires temporarily sealing off the well at the top prior testing, will gauge the pressure inside. If high pressure is measured for a sustained period of time — at least 48 hours — it could indicate that the well is not leaking anymore, and it is safe to entirely seal the well.
If the test shows low pressure it may indicate that the well is leaking oil from other locations. If that is the case, the cap could worsen the flow and, in the worst-case scenario, might push oil to the sea floor, creating new problem in the gulf. The oil company officials said that if they detect low pressure, they will remove the seal of the cap and revert to another plan, oil collection plan, the company will utilize a series of pipes leading to containment ships on the surface. That plan would collect some of the oil that is leaking from the well at first, but the company promises that the new techniques have the capacity to collect all of the leaking oil — up to 60,000 barrels per day — by the end of July.