BP begins attempt to cut off gusher by pumping mud

Aug 4th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Featured

But retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man for the spill, made it clear that to be safe, the gusher will have to be plugged up from two directions. He said the 18,000-foot relief well that BP has been drilling over the past three months will be used later this month to execute a “bottom kill,” in which mud and cement will be injected into the bedrock 2 1/2 miles below the sea floor.

“There should be no ambiguity about that,” Allen said. “I’m the national incident commander and this is how this will be handled.”

Over the past few months, with each failed attempt to stop the leak, the American public has learned some of the oil industry’s lingo, including “top kill,” which is similar to the static kill, “top hat,” and “junk shot,” an attempt to clog up the well with golf balls and rubber scraps.

Before the cap was lowered onto the well, 172 million gallons of crude flowed into the sea, unleashed by the April 20 explosion aboard the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 workers.

BP won’t know for certain whether the static kill has succeeded until engineers can use the soon-to-be-completed relief well to check their work.

Allen said the task is becoming more urgent because peak hurricane season is just around the corner. Tropical Storm Colin formed far out in the Atlantic on Tuesday, but early forecasts say it will travel toward the East Coast rather than the Gulf. And while the cap appears to be holding tight, the static kill would give scientists more confidence the well won’t leak again, he said.

“The quicker we get this done, the quicker we can reduce the risk of some type of internal failure” of the massive cap, he said.

Gulf residents anxiously awaited the outcome. In Yscloskey, La., Russell Prats, a crab dealer, said he is confident the static kill will work, but concerned that people will still be scared to eat seafood.

“I think they’ll be successful this time. I really do,” he said. “But just because they kill the well doesn’t mean our troubles go away.”

Aboard the Q4000, workers in red jumpsuits scurried about, pressing buttons and monitoring gauges. Some relaxed in the galley, watching “Law and Order,” while others typed on laptops. They were in constant contact with BP’s command center in Houston, where decisions about the procedure were being made.

“We’re just waiting to get feedback from the experts who are looking at the data,” Bolton said.

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Bluestein reported from New Orleans. Associated Press Writers Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston and Jason Dearen in Yscloskey, La., contributed to this report.

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