BP: No Oil Leaking into Gulf of Mexico as Cap Holds, But Are Pressure Levels a Cause for Concern?

Pressure not at desired level, as leaders warn there's a long way to go.

ByMatt Gutman
July 15, 2010, 3:56 PM

July 15, 2010— -- BP's new cap is still holding back the oil from spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, over 24 hours since the company first clamped the cap down and began the painstaking process of testing the new device.

Pressures in the well are continuing to rise, National Incident Cmdr. Thad Allen said today, signaling that the cap seems to be working and there are no other leaks in the well. This evening, the pressure stood at 6,700 pounds per square inch, lower than officials would like to see but not a cause for immediate concern.

Watch 'World News' for more coverage of the BP oil spill.

For days, BP has said that a pressure reading of 8,000 to 9,000 psi would be ideal, while anything below 6,000 psi would be a problem.

"Between those is where detailed analysis" must take place, said BP executive Kent Wells in a technical briefing this morning.

A squadron of undersea robots is scanning the Gulf floor, looking for traces of new oil leaks, though Allen said the procedure could be halted as early as this evening.

Today, President Obama urged caution against celebrating too soon.

"I think it's important we don't get ahead of ourselves here," Obama said in the Rose Garden this morning. "One of the problems with having this camera down there is -- is that when the oil stops gushing, everybody feels like we're done. And we're not."

Given that pressure levels have not reached optimum levels, some fear that that oil could have breeched the well's cement casing, bleeding into the Gulf's bedrock. Others think that with so much oil already discharged into the Gulf, the well may have started to run dry, reducing pressure in the pipe.

If the pressure fails to rise to desired levels, BP may reattach several hoses and simply funnel the oil to ships on the surface, effectively controlling the leak.

Relief Well Drilling Resumes

Relief wells still are the most reliable method of plugging the leak for good. The process of drilling those wells resumed today, after being put on hold for the start of the well integrity test yesterday. Relief well drilling is two weeks away from completion, when BP will be able to pump in mud and cement to close off the blown-out well.

But even when that happens, the spill will be far from over. Some analysts expect oil to continue to hit coastal areas for months.

"This isn't done when they get the cap in place. This isn't done when they drill the relief wells. This isn't done even when they get all the oil out of the water," Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal said today. "It is only done for us when they restore our wetlands and coastline back to their pre-spill status."

Some locals fear that the scars of the spill may never fade completely.

"[I] Had to tell my grandson that he won't be a boat captain, that there's no future here," one fisherman told ABC News today.

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