Perhaps the rumbling felt in Washington early this morning wasn't an earthquake after all. Perhaps it was a collective sigh of cautious relief that, for the first time in nearly three months, oil was no longer spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.
This week marked the first successful step taken by BP to begin cleaning up the monumental mess that was set in motion by the Deepwater Horizon explosion. They deployed a sealing cap system to stanch the flow of oil.
So far it's working. But it's only the first step.
BP acknowledges in its press releases that "the sealing cap system never before has been deployed at these depths or under these conditions, and its efficiency and ability to contain the oil and gas cannot be assured." They took a chance that it would work when they deployed it, and now they're gambling that it will continue to work while the relief wells are constructed. The capping stack could develop a leak anytime between now and August (when the relief wells are scheduled to be completed).
BP is closely monitoring the pressure inside the capped well. It's been rising steadily, which is a good sign -- if the cap were leaking, the pressure would decrease.
What happens next will depend on the results of pressure monitoring. If the cap continues to hold up, "valves are expected to open after that to resume siphoning oil to two ships on the surface." Concurrently, work on the two relief wells will proceed.
BP is not even close to being out of the woods; at this point, they've only just dug down to the bottom of their backpack and finally located their compass.
Still, it's hard not to feel optimistic. It's the first good news we've heard from the Gulf in nearly three months.
Image via BP p.l.c.