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This afternoon, President Obama received an update by phone from Secretaries Chu, Napolitano and Salazar as well as Administrator Jackson, National Incident Commander Allen and Carol Browner on the oil spill response efforts. Yesterday, Admiral Allen and the federal science team, under the leadership of Energy Secretary Chu, directed BP to temporarily delay the well integrity tests until concerns from the scientific community were addressed and adequate assurances were provided that there would be no irreparable harm to the well bore as a result of the testing procedures. Based on new information and analysis, Secretary Chu and other scientists concluded that the test should now proceed with several modifications and safety requirements. Admiral Allen will be issuing a new directive to BP for the test. The directive will require additional seismic testing and monitoring from ROV's as well as acoustic and temperature monitoring throughout the duration of the well integrity test. The test will take up to 48 hours and will include periodic assessments in 6-hour increments.
Test procedures will begin tonight, starting with the disconnection of both the Q4000 and the Helix Producer. In order to accommodate additional oil which will enter the Gulf environment during the test, over 40 ocean skimmers and other assets have been positioned around the wellhead. Upon completion of the tests, the federal government will possess valuable data regarding both the condition of the well - important when action is taken to ultimately kill the well with the relief well efforts - as well as an understanding of our capacity to shut the well in for brief periods if needed to prepare for a hurricane. As soon as the tests conclude, containment efforts will resume with the new capping stack and other equipment, with the potential to capture up to 80,000 barrels per day.