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New cap on ruptured oil well faces key tests
New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) - BP plans to begin testing the new cap on its ruptured deepwater well Tuesday - a move that officials hope will be a step on the way to stopping oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.
"This test involves closing one or more of the valves on the new cap for a period of time to allow BP to measure pressures in the well," retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.
The process could take anywhere from six hours to two days, or longer if BP extends them.
Officials say several scenarios are possible: the cap could contain all the oil; the cap could contain some of the crude while ships on the water's surface collect the rest; or, under a worst-case scenario, there could be more damage to the well's casing, meaning that capping the well would not stop the oil from flowing.
Before testing began, some oil continued to gush from the upper section of the new, 18-foot, 150,000-pound cap.
Allen, who is leading the federal response to the environmental disaster, said Monday scientists will be checking the pressure inside the well, and then determining whether the cap is holding the oil in or if ships will need to continue siphoning oil.
A critical step is making sure there's no hydrate buildup, according to BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles. Read more
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