A new containment vessel is partially linked to the gushing well head in the Gulf of Mexico, and officials say they'll know soon whether it's properly connected.
Retired Coast Guard Rear Admiral Thad Allen didn't indicate how soon the Helix Producer could begin moving oil, but said Tuesday the connection can be maintained unless severe weather moves in.
The 528-foot, nearly 2,300-ton vessel can collect up to 25,000 barrels of oil a day. That would double the amount being collected, then burned or transferred to other tankers.
Allen says once the Producer is operational, officials will have a better idea of how close their flow-rate estimates have been to reality.
Those numbers will also help determine whether they should risk replacing the current containment cap at the sea floor.