BP will begin running tests Tuesday on a new containment cap on the damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico that has been gushing millions of barrels of oil into the sea for three months.
The new cap was installed Monday on the damaged wellhead, located about 1.6 kilometers below the surface, after a painstaking three-day operation.
National Incident Commander Thad Allen, the man overseeing the U.S. government's response to the crisis, says it will take anywhere from six to 48 hours to determine if the device can stanch the heavy flow of oil from the underwater well.
BP officials say if the pressure readings taken at the wellhead are high, it means the cap has effectively sealed off the well. Lower pressure readings would indicate another leak inside the well.
Even if the cap works as hoped, it is only meant to be temporary fix. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles says the company will continue to drill two relief wells that will allow the ruptured well to be permanently plugged with mud and cement. The first relief well is not expected to be ready for another month.
The oil leak began shortly after the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which killed 11 crewmen. The disaster has fouled vast expanses of the U.S. Gulf coast, killed birds and sea life and devastated the region's fishing, tourism and other industries.
BP officials said Monday the leak has already cost the company some $3.5 billion.