Image by NASA (source: Flickr)

BP’s crucial test of the new well cap over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been postponed yesterday. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and his team of advisers, who raised concerns that the operation could put damaging pressure on the busted well and make the leak worse, requested the postponement. By closing the source of the spill the pressure increase could cause the oil to start leaking in other places.

The drilling of relief wells still remains the only proven way to stop the spill permanently, by intercepting the ruptured one. By the end of this month the first of two such relief wells (who’s drilling started in May) is expected to intercept it by the end of July and close it off with mud and cement by August.

Meanwhile the oil continues to flow away undisturbed as it has been doing since April 20th. At a rate of ten million liters per day, according to some sources even fifteen million liters, the disaster just keeps getting bigger. Now that the previous cap has been removed and that testing the new cap has been postponed, BP is uncertain about the outcome of a system that has never been tested at such depths (like we haven’t heard that before).

In the meantime the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal meteorology and oceanography agency in the U.S., refuses to release its data about the oil spill, at least to everyone except… BP.