BP capped well holding as waiting period ticks by

No signs of new leaks, but Obama cautions public not to "get too far ahead of ourselves."

Topics: Gulf Oil Spill, Barack Obama,

BP said its capped-off well appeared to be holding steady Friday morning, almost midway into a white-knuckle waiting period in which engineers watched the pressure gauges for signs of a leak.

Results monitored from control rooms on ships at sea and hundreds of miles away at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Houston showed the oil staying inside the cap, rather than escaping through any undiscovered breaches, BP PLC vice president Kent Wells said on a conference call.

Four underwater robots scoured the sea floor but had also found no signs of new leaks.

President Barack Obama said Friday the progress was good news, but cautioned an anxious public not to “get too far ahead of ourselves.” Obama said the cap was still being tested and there was still an “enormous clean up job” and ensuring quick compensation for Gulf residents and business in the offing.

There was no evidence of a leak in the pipe under the sea floor, Wells said, one of the main concerns. Wells said the results were encouraging 17 hours after valves were shut to trap oil inside the cap, a test that could last up to 48 hours.

He said pressure continued to rise inside the tight-fighting cap, a good sign that oil was not getting out somewhere else. The pressure was more than 6,700 pounds per square inch, above the minimum they were hoping to see, but not yet in the high range of 8,000 to 9,000 psi they were hoping for.

“The pressures we’ve seen so far are consistent with the engineering analysis work that BP has done,” Wells said. “It’s been a very steady build.”

Wells also said work would resume on a relief well, the oil giant’s more permanent solution meant to plug the leak for good underground to end one of the nation’s worst environmental catastrophes.

That’s also a sign that things were going well. Engineers had stopped drilling one of the wells Thursday in case that bore hole deep underground could be affected by the oil cap effort.

Engineers and scientists continue to monitor the cap’s pressure. When the test is complete, more sea floor mapping will be done to detect any damage or deep-water leaks.

BP finally stopped oil from spewing into the sea Thursday for the first time since an April 20 explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 workers and unleashed the spill 5,000 feet beneath the water’s surface.



The accomplishment was greeted with hope, high expectations — and, in many cases along the beleaguered coastline, disbelief. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles urged caution and warned the flow could resume, saying it wasn’t a time for celebration.

There was no end in sight to cleaning the oil already in the water and on shore. Somewhere between 94 million and 184 million gallons spilled into the Gulf, according to government estimates.

Long strands of white absorbent boom strung along the beach were stained chocolate brown at Orange Beach, Ala., early Friday after a fresh wave of pea-sized tar balls washed ashore. Charter boat captains who can’t fish because of the oil spill patrolled the shore looking for more oil slicks.

A few miles away, an oily sheen swirled around a $4.6 million steel oil barrier erected at the pass into Perdido Bay, located near the Alabama-Florida border.

Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said shutting the well meant a light at the end of the tunnel, but the damage is done.

“The other side is they’re not paying claims and I’m watching people moving away, people losing their jobs, everything they’ve got. How can I be that happy when that’s happening to my neighbor?”

Kennon said BP has only paid $50,000 of his city’s claim of $1.9 million for damages and response.

Claims czar Ken Feinberg will administer a BP-paid $20 billion fund for losses from the spill. For some businesses, the process has been difficult enough already.

“They told us that they’re cutting us a check for $14,000, which is pretty much a slap in the face” said Dea Baxter, office manager for Griffin Fishing, a recreational charter fishing service in Lafitte. “We’ve sent more than that out in refunds and cancellations.”

BP said Friday it has paid out $201 million so far to individuals and businesses. It said more than 32,000 claimants got one or more payments in the past 10 weeks.

More than 114,000 claims have been submitted so far, but nearly half didn’t have enough information for BP to make payment, the oil giant said.

On Pensacola Beach in Florida, dozens of BP workers in neon vests operated heavy equipment up and down the beach throughout the night and early morning. Workers used shovels and rakes to comb through the sands for pieces of tar. Other workers then collect the clumps of tar in bags, which are carried by the front-end loaders to dump trucks and hauled away down the beach.

BP said the decision on whether to reopen the well after the test would be made by the government’s national incident command, run by retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen.

It’s not clear yet whether the oil will remain bottled in the cap after the test, or whether BP will use the device to funnel the crude into four ships on the surface.

The cap is a temporary measure until the gusher can be plugged deep underground, where a seal will hold better than by blocking the powerful gusher from the top. BP plans to shoot cement and heavy drilling mud into the well from one of the two relief it is drilling.

The 48-hour watch period started at 3:25 p.m. EDT when the last of three valves in the 75-ton cap was slowly throttled shut.

It came after repeated attempts to stop the oil — everything from robotics to different capping techniques to stuffing the hole with mud and golf balls. The week leading up to the moment where the oil cloud ended was a fitful series of starts and setbacks.

BP officials have said repeatedly they were right to take a step-by-step approach to trying to shut off the geyser over the last three months, to make sure they didn’t make the disaster worse. They have also pointed out that the current cap system in place took time to design and build and to make sure it could withstand the massive water pressures a mile below the sea.

BP removed a previous, looser cap last weekend, at which point oil flowed freely into the water. Robotic submarines swarmed the site to unbolt a busted piece of pipe and install a connector atop the spewing well bore — and by Monday the 75-ton metal cap, a stack of lines and valves, was latched onto the busted well.

After that, engineers spent hours creating a map of the rock under the sea floor to spot potential dangers, like gas pockets. They also shut down two ships collecting oil above the sea to get an accurate reading on the pressure in the cap.

As the oil flowed up to the cap, two valves were shut off like light switches, and the third dialed down like a dimmer switch until it too was choked off.

And just like that, the oil stopped.

The news was met with a mix of joy, skepticism and disbelief from beleaguered Gulf Coast residents. A quiet optimism started to take hold.

Richard Forester, executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it’s possible the season can be saved.

“Fortunately, we are still seeing pretty good occupancy because most people recognize we are so much more than a beach destination,” Forester said. “The oil spill has had an impact on our beachfront hotels, charter operations, vendors, gift shops. Whether or not they’ve stopped it, there’s still a lot of oil out there that’s got to be cleaned up.”

The Gulf Coast has been shaken economically, environmentally and psychologically by the hardships of the past three months. That feeling of being swatted around — by BP, by the government, even by fate — was evident in the wide spectrum of reactions to news of the capping.

The fishing industry in particular has been buffeted by fallout from the spill. Surveys of oyster grounds in Louisiana showed extensive deaths of the shellfish. Large sections of the Gulf Coast — which accounts for 60 to 70 percent of the oysters eaten in the United States — have been closed to harvesting.

The saga has also devastated BP, costing it billions in everything from cleanup to repair efforts to plunging stock prices. BP shares, which have lost nearly half their value since the disaster started, jumped in the last hour of Thursday trading on Wall Street after the oil stopped. But they were down again more than 3 percent Friday morning.

Long after the well is finally plugged, oil could still be washing up in marshes and on beaches as tar balls or disc-shaped patties. The sheen will dissolve over time, scientists say, and the slick will convert to another form.

There’s also fear that months from now, oil could move far west to Corpus Christi, Texas, or farther east and hitch a ride on the loop current, possibly showing up as tar balls in Miami or North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

——

Weber reported from Houston. Associated Press Writers Shelia Byrd in Jackson, Miss., Jay Reeves in Orange Beach, Ala., Kevin McGill in New Orleans, Jennifer Garske King in Washington, Matt Sedensky in Pensacola, Fla., and Ramit Plushnick-Masti in New Orleans contributed to this report.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>