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Well integrity test extended till Sunday afternoon

Oil had started spewing in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. Estimates reveal that between 90.4 and 178.6 million gallons of oil has made into the water since the beginning of the catastrophe.

The federal government and BP Plc are taking no chances when it comes to gauging the efficacy of the newly installed 150,000-pound cap atop the busted well in the Gulf of Mexico.

In an endeavor to grant experts more time to carefully analyze pressure readings that would establish whether it is safe to keep a tight seal on top of the well, the decisive two-day test of BP's oil well was extended Saturday by another 24 hours.

Good news
Former U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is heading the federal government's response to the spill, said that 48 hours of testing had provided "valuable information which will inform the procedure to kill the well."

"We are feeling more comfortable we have integrity," BP vice president Kent Wells said. "We will keep monitoring and make the decisions as we go forward," added Wells.

As of Saturday morning, the pressure was up to 6,745 psi inside the well's capping stack and was increasing at about 2 psi an hour. Though this is good news, the number does not give the clearest of answers; hence the officials have decided to extend the test.

Allen noted that extensive monitoring of the area would be done while the test continues. This enhanced scrutiny would also include doubling the seismic mapping runs over the recently capped well site.

The well's pressure level needed to be above 6,000 psi (pounds per square inch) to ensure that there was some integrity. 8,000 psi would signify total integrity.

Wells noted that a pressure reading of 7,500 psi "would really say to us that we do have integrity under, essentially, any scenario."

As of Saturday morning, the pressure was up to 6,745 psi inside the well's capping stack and was increasing at about 2 psi an hour. Though this is good news, the number does not give the clearest of answers; hence the officials have decided to extend the tests.

"We are encouraged at this point. The longer the test goes the more confidence we have in it," averred Wells.

Ultimate solution by mid-august
Oil had started spewing in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. Estimates reveal that between 90.4 and 178.6 million gallons of oil has made into the water since the beginning of the catastrophe.

The embattled BP, which owns the ruptured well, has made umpteen efforts to stem the rot. A permanent solution to the problem involves digging two relief wells and plugging the leaking well with mud and cement.

This process, pegged as the "ultimate step in stopping the BP oil leak," is expected to be complete by mid-August.