BP making progress on well plug
Oil giant BP has cleared the first hurdle in its attempts to plug the Gulf of Mexico leak for good and put a disastrous episode behind it.
US authorities ordered the beleaguered company to complete a series of actions before the leak capping can be considered a success.
First was an ambient pressure test to find out if the well has been sealed tightly enough to stop further leaks once all the equipment currently attached to it has been removed for good.
This was carried out over the weekend and BP reported the 48-hour monitoring task a success. Next is what BP is calling a 'fishing operation'.
This is the retrieval of the Blow Out Preventer (BOP), which is widely suspected of failing, and will be key to the investigation of the accident that led to the worst oil spill in American history.
The retrieval attempt began on Saturday.
BP says once it is complete, it will seek authorisation from the National Incident Commander (NIC) to replace the BOP.
The oil company has arranged for its Transocean Development Driller II to set a "storm packer" - a preliminary preparation necessary for the job - and has unlatched its BOP from the second relief well site.
If the fishing operations fail, BP and the federal science team are developing contingency procedures subject to NIC approval.
Once the BOP has been replaced, the well will be pumped full of mud and cement and abandoned.
BP is currently predicting the process will be complete in September.