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BP, scientists try to make sense of oil well puzzle

BP, scientists try to make sense of oil well puzzle

Engineers kept vigil yesterday over the massive cap holding back oil from BP's busted Gulf well, their eyes glued to monitors in a faraway control room that displayed pressure readings, temperature gauges and radar images.
Their round-the-clock work deciphering a puzzle of data from undersea robots and instruments at the wellhead is helping BP and the government determine whether the cap is holding tight as a critical 48-hour testing window approaches. Signs so far have been promising but inconclusive.
Yesterday afternoon marked two full days since BP stopped the oil from leaking into the Gulf and entered into the pressure-testing phase. At that point engineers could offer more definitive evidence that the cap is working, or call for more testing. At any time before then, they could also reopen the cap and allow some oil to spill into the sea again. Scientists are watching for leaks either in the well itself or the sea floor.
Kent Wells, a BP PLC vice president, said on an evening conference call that engineers had found no indication that the well has started leaking underground.
"No news is good news, I guess that's how I'd say it," Wells said.
One mysterious development was that the pressure readings were not rising as high as expected, said retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man on the crisis.
Allen said two possible reasons were being debated by scientists: The reservoir that is the source of the oil could be running lower three months into the spill. Or there could be an undiscovered leak somewhere down in the well. Allen ordered further study but remained confident.
"This is generally good news," he said. But he cautioned, "We need to be careful not to do any harm or create a situation that cannot be reversed."
Inside BP's command center hundreds of miles away in Houston, engineers, scientists and technicians have been carefully monitoring reams of data around the clock, BP's chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, told The Associated Press Friday. Other engineers watched on monitors aboard ships at sea.
"You've got a very, very focused group of people because this is very important," Suttles said.


Updated : 2021-04-18 14:01 GMT+08:00