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Archive for Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spill chief: Capped well is holding up

July 21, 2010

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— The government’s oil spill chief tried to tamp down fears Tuesday that BP’s capped well is buckling under the pressure, saying that seepage detected along the sea floor less than 2 miles away is coming from an older well no longer in production.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen also said at least five leaks have been discovered around the well machinery, but he dismissed them as “very small drips” — “not unlike an oil leak you might have in your car.”

Over the past few days, since a 75-ton cap was placed over the mile-deep well to keep the oil bottled up inside, BP and government engineers have been watching closely to see whether the well would hold tight or show signs of rupturing under the pressure. A rupture could cause a bigger and harder-to-control disaster.

Allen has granted BP repeated 24-hour extensions to keep the cap in place, as long as the company monitors the well scrupulously.

Meanwhile, the end game in the three-month crisis appeared to be drawing closer, with BP vice president Kent Wells saying the drilling of the relief well — necessary to permanently plug up the well — is on track. He said crews hope to drill sideways into the blown-out well and intercept it at the end of July.

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