HOUSTON BP Plc is "hopeful" that its blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico can remain sealed until a pair of relief wells permanently stop the flow, a company executive said on Sunday.
BP is more than two days into a pressure test on its crippled Macondo well, which had been described as a temporary measure to stop oil from gushing into the Gulf while engineers study pressure within the well.
Now, BP officials say they want to keep the well sealed in until they finish a pair of relief wells that are eventually meant to permanently seal the well, or "kill" it, with heavy mud and cement. BP says the relief wells will likely be complete by mid-August.
"We're hopeful that if the encouraging signs continue that we'll be able to continue the integrity test all the way to the point that we get the well killed," Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, told reporters on a conference call.
"Right now there is no target set to open the well back up to flow," Suttles said. "Clearly we don't want to re-initiate flow into the Gulf if we don't have to."
The U.S. government has yet to approve BP's plan. On Saturday, the top U.S. oil spill official said the pressure test was temporary and meant to clarify options for sealing off the well in the event of a hurricane.
After completing the test, BP would open valves on the containment cap to allow oil to temporarily flow into the sea while it repositioned vessels on the surface which would siphon up the oil, retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said in a statement on Saturday.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu)