The permanent stifling of the ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well won't start until the latest potential problem is evaluated, Thad Allen, the government's point man in the Gulf, said Monday.
The "timelines won't be known until we get a recommendation on the course of action," he said.
Allen told reporters that when it comes to giving a green light to the "bottom kill" of the well through the nearby relief well, "nobody wants to make that declaration any more than I do," but the process "will not start until we figure out how to manage the risk of pressure in the annulus."
The annulus is a ring that surrounds the casing pipe, which sits in the center of the well shaft. Unless the annulus is breached, it should be accessible only from the bottom of the well.
Scientists began new pressure tests last week to gauge the effects of the mud and cement poured into the well from above during the static kill procedure that started August 3 and ended a few days later. From those pressure readings, they believe that either some of the cement breached the casing pipe and leaked into the annulus or cement came up into the annulus from the bottom.