The SMH reports that BP are claiming a new cap fitted over the leaking Macondo well has is capturing the oil flow - After three months, oil gusher plugged, says BP. The SMH also reports that BP's role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber is being viewed with suspicion in the US as the companmy looks to expand operations in Libya - BP faces grilling over oil deal links to Lockerbie.
Engineers have stopped oil flowing freely into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time in almost three months - but stress tests over the next 48 hours will determine whether the new cap on the deep-sea well will hold.
The chief operating officer of BP, Doug Suttles, was cautiously optimistic. "Clearly, it's encouraging for the first time in 86 days not to see oil gushing out of this well ... But it's way too early to celebrate," he said.
Officials claimed the next two days would be critical as engineers keep a close watch on pressure levels within the well. The new construction includes a containment cap with a built-in "blow-out preventer", the device that failed to cut off the oil flow when the Deepwater Horizon drill rig caught fire after an explosion in April.
BP, the well operator, hopes that pressure levels beneath the cap remain high, indicating there are no leaks beneath the sea bed. Six-hourly tests are planned over the next 48 hours.
The discovery of a new leak would force the company to resume recovering as much oil as possible through lines from the well to vessels on the surface of the Gulf, Coast Guard boss Thad Allen said.
"The number one goal is to shut in the well and kill it and stop it at the source," Admiral Allen told reporters in New Orleans. "This is merely an intermediate step to plugging the hole."
Stopping the oil is a long-awaited milestone in the worst environmental disaster in US history. The well has been spewing between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels of crude a day into the Gulf, according to a US government-led panel of scientists, inundating sensitive coastal habitats and disrupting fishing and tourism across four Gulf states.
The cost of the mishap has been put at several billions of dollars with Louisiana and Mississippi bearing the brunt of the disaster.
Plugging the well for good will depend on relief wells being drilled simultaneously. The first is within 30 metres of intercepting the well, which taps into the rich Macondo oil field, and could be in a position to divert the flow by the end of the month, BP said.