BP Races to Fit New Containment Cap

Adm. Thad Allen says BP "very close" to stopping oil once and for all.

July 12, 2010, 6:18 AM

July 12, 2010— -- BP has taken a big risk, removing the existing cap to replace it with a tighter cap that could stop oil from gushing from its broken well deep in the Gulf of Mexico once and for all.

"We're going to be very close to containing all of the oil," said National Incident Cmdr. Adm.Thad Allen on "Good Morning America." "We're doing what's called a well integrity test. That will tell us whether or not we can actually close all the valves or withstand the pressure."

The massive new contraption -- standing 30 feet tall and weighing 80 tons -- is being placed over the well head, about 5,000 feet below the surface. BP said it would likely bolt down the cap today. It's around 300 feet away from the target.

Allen, who's overseeing the effort, said the next steps would be to see if the team could close all the valves. BP said within 48 hours it would know whether the new cap had succeeded.

Underwater, remote-controlled robots continued building the connection piece that would hold the massive new containing cap in place on top of the broken oil pipe. Once they bolt down the new cap -- sometime in the next day or two -- BP said it would be a week away from capturing all that leaking oil and sending it to ships above.

"We've received lots of criticism over this, either being too optimistic or too pessimistic," said Kent Wells, senior vice president of BP at a news conference Sunday. "We're pleased at this point on how it's going, but I'll just keep stressing we're day two of a four- to seven-day process."

But there's a chance the tighter cap might not work, and crude would continue to flow unchecked into the Gulf.

"It's the unexpected that worries me. Something happens, the pipe breaks, there's a kink in the line, one of the ROVs has an accident and bends it," said Edward Overton, a professor in the department of environmental sciences at Louisiana State University.

BP is racing to get work done before the next storm hits the Gulf, which would paralyze the cleanup efforts. While the work is under way, the government estimates that up to 60,000 barrels of crude a day spew unchecked from the well. There's a whole fleet on the scene, with a capacity to handle up to 33,000 barrels, above the water trying to burn the crude.

"Yesterday we skimmed over 25,000, nearly 26,000 barrels of oily water. We also had 15 burns out there yesterday," said Adm. Paul Zukunft of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Shuttle tankers are also coming in to capture all the oil, and four floating production platforms will be in place around July 17, Allen said, to capture all the oil being collected by the new containment system.

BP Under Fire for Clean Up Effort

BP will be under tremendous pressure this week to pay out even more money to families and businesses in need. Today, families are urging visiting members of a federal commission to force BP to pay them more money upfront.

BP's money troubles abound. The company said Monday that the cost of the spill had risen to about $3.5 billion. BP refused to confirm reports that it was selling $12 billion in assets to raise cash, and that Exxon Mobil might consider buying the company.

The relief wells that BP hoped would solve the leak could be completed by the end of the month, BP said. Though relief wells are now 5 feet away from the target, it would take another few weeks to fill them with cement.

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