BP allayed last-minute government fears of making the disaster worse and began testing the new, tighter-fitting cap today that could finally choke off the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. "We sat long and hard about delaying the tests," said the Coast Guard's Thad Allen. He said that the pause was necessary in the interest of the public, the environment, and safety, and that officials were convinced the test could go forward.
The test began with BP shutting off pipes that were funneling some of the oil to ships on the surface so the full force of the gusher went up into the cap. Then deep-sea robots began slowly closing, one at a time, three openings in the cap that let oil pass through. Ultimately, the flow of crude will be blocked entirely. All along, engineers will be watching pressure readings to learn whether the well is intact. BP will monitor the results every six hours and end the test after 48 hours to evaluate the findings.