WASHINGTON (CN) – A day after BP claimed to have capped the well responsible for the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, President Obama warned that the cap’s integrity is not yet certain. “It’s important we don’t get ahead of ourselves here,” Obama said Friday morning at the White House. “When the oil stops gushing, everybody feels like we’re done, and we’re not.”
BP closed the choke valve on the cap Thursday afternoon. The containment cap is trapping all of the leaking oil, but BP and a federal team of scientists are still monitoring the well for leaks.
As of Friday morning, BP reported “no negative tests” on the well. BP said pressure within the well was continuing to rise at a steady rate, measuring 6,700 pounds per square inch. BP wants to reach 8,000 pounds per square inch to ensure the stability of the well.
“Currently the well remains shut-in with no oil flowing into the Gulf,” BP said on its website. “The sealing cap system never before has been deployed at these depths or under these conditions, and its efficiency and ability to contain the oil and gas cannot be assured.”
Even if the containment cap does not seal off the well completely, workers will be able to hook flexible tubes to the cap that will carry oil to drillships on the ocean’s surface, keeping it from gushing into the ocean. The new cap system will be able to contain up to 80,000 barrels a day. Previously, BP’s containment system was capturing an average of 25,000 barrels a day.
“The new cap is good news,” Obama said. “Either we will be able to use it to stop the flow or we will be able to use it to capture almost all of the oil until the relief well is done. We will not know for certain until the data is in.”
Coast Guard AdmiralThad Allen said in a statement, “We’re encouraged by this development, but this isn’t over.”
Allen said federal scientists were monitoring the well and evaluating options for shutting it off during a hurricane. Allen said it was likely that the cap would be used to funnel oil to the ocean’s surface until the relief well was in place.
The first relief well is slated to be finished in early August.
“The relief wells remain the sole means to permanently seal and isolate the well,” BP said in a statement.
“In the meantime, obviously, we’ve still got a big job to do,” Obama said. “People down in the Gulf, particularly businesses, are still suffering. BP is going to be paying for the damage it has caused,” he added, insisting BP is responsible for environmental cleanup and compensation costs.
Obama said he expects to visit the Gulf coast in the next several weeks.
“It’s the beginning,” BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Thursday afternoon. “Hopefully we’ll continue it for the next 48 hours into Saturday afternoon. We’re far from the finish line. We’ve got a lot of work left to do and were going to be here a long time.”
“We might see oil coming up on our shores for a year or two,” said Billy Nungesser, parish president of Plaquemines, La.
Forty-five thousand people are working on spill response in the Gulf and 6,900 vessels are helping with containment and cleanup efforts. Approximately 581 miles of Gulf shoreline are tainted by oil: an estimated 333 miles in Louisiana, 109 miles in Mississippi, 68 miles in Alabama and 71 miles in Florida. The numbers do not reflect cumulative damage to the coastline, as they do not include miles of shoreline that have already been cleared.
More than one-third of federal fishing waters in the Gulf — nearly 84,000 square miles of ocean — remain closed to fishing.
“But the American people should take some heart in this development,” Obama said.