BP was last night planning to begin a pressure test on its undersea oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico after placing a new sealing cap on the wellhead.
Kent Wells, the oil giant’s senior vice-president of exploration and production, told reporters that BP and US government scientists would monitor the well integrity test at regular intervals.
If the test – which could last between six and 48 hours – progressed as hoped, no oil would flow from the well for the first time for almost three months.
While the cap could contain the flow, Mr Wells said relief wells remained the sole means to kill the leak permanently.
Another 30ft has still to be drilled on the first relief well so a pipe can be inserted to intercept the blown-out one.
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank on April 20, killing 11 workers and causing the worst oil spill in US history.
BP said yesterday that plans to sell non-core assets, which will help pay for a £13billion clean-up fund, were moving forward.
“We are in discussions with a number of companies about a number of assets,” said BP spokeswoman Sheila Will-iams in London.
“Talks are going well.”
Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, said the emirate was considering an investment in BP.
Investors snapped up BP shares again in London yesterday amid optimism that the new technology would cap the gusher. They finished almost 3% higher.
BP owns part of the blown-out well which is spewing oil in the Gulf. But when it comes to paying for the clean-up, the oil giant stands alone.
A BP spokesman said yesterday that partner Moex Offshore 2007 refuses to pay a £73.2million ($111million) clean-up bill that BP requested from it last month. The other minority owner, Anadarko Petroleum, refused a £179.3million ($272million) bill from BP last week.
Moex declined immediate comment.
Anadarko argued for the past several weeks that BP was reckless in its handling of the well, excusing the minority partners from what could be billions of dollars in clean-up costs and damage claims.
BP has already paid more than £2billion, and the US government handed it another bill for nearly £65.7million yesterday.
Environmental groups want the European Parliament to call for a moratorium on new offshore drilling in the Arctic. The move is by the WWF, the European Environmental Bureau and the Bellona Foundation.
Cairn Energy, of Edinburgh, said earlier this month it had started exploration drilling west of Greenland.
WWF Scotland director Richard Dixon said: “The sensitive Arctic environment is the last place we should be drilling for oil. The risks just aren’t worth it.
“That a Scottish company is at the forefront of exploration in the Arctic is deeply disturbing.”
Last week, European energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger called for a temporary ban on new drilling in the North Sea following the oil disaster in the gulf. He will meet oil companies and industry regulators later today.
Industry body Oil & Gas UK has already said it was premature to impose a drilling ban in the North Sea.
A Department of Energy spokeswoman said the UK was exercising the “utmost caution” and had conducted an initial review which had shown that the regulatory system in British waters was robust.