BP to 'kill' oil leak by sealing up Gulf well
BP WAS last night preparing to deliver the first of two blows it hopes will "kill" its oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, 105 days since the start of a leak that led to the worst oil spill in US history.
The White House said it was "monitoring" the situation as BP engineers, mindful of previous setbacks to permanently seal the well, conducted final tests. The tests will show whether BP can move ahead today with its planned 'static kill' when it will inject heavy drilling mud into the top of the well to push oil back where it came from: a reservoir 13,000 feet beneath the seabed.
"When we've done that, we will have killed the well," said Kent Wells, BP's senior vice-president of exploration and production.
To ensure that the ruptured well is permanently sealed, BP will also proceed with its plans for a relief well that will intersect the damaged well and pump more heavy drilling mud and cement in from below to plug any openings.
Mr Wells said the British company expected the relief well to intercept its blown-out Macondo well between August 11-15. A permanent seal to the well will end the months-long technical nightmare for BP that began on April 20 with an explosion on a rig 50 miles off the Louisiana coast.
Millions of gallons of crude spewed into the ocean after the blast, which killed 11 workers and ruptured the well a mile beneath the surface of the sea.
But even when the well is finally capped, the environmental disaster will be far from over and the political and financial implications will reverberate for some time to come.
Business owners are still counting the costs of the spill which forced the closure of large swathes of rich fishing grounds and has dealt a severe blow to tourism.
BP managed to put a tight-fitting cap on the well two weeks ago that temporarily stopped the flow of oil into the ocean.
The disaster has cost the company billions of dollars in clean-up costs, tarnished its reputation in the US and left it facing numerous lawsuits and possible criminal charges.
If BP's effort to cap the well is successful, it would also be good news for President Barack Obama, who has seen his public approval rating slip in recent months, partly because of voter unhappiness over his handling of the spill.