BP pumping cement in well to finish ‘static kill’

Aug 5th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Featured

BP began pumping a steady stream of fresh cement into its blown-out oil well Thursday, hoping to seal for good the ruptured pipe that blew its top months ago and spewed crude into Gulf of Mexico in one of the world’s worst spills.

A day before, crews forced a slow torrent of heavy mud down the broken wellhead to push the crude back to its underground source. This next step in the so-called “static kill” is intended to keep the oil from finding its way back out.

“This is not the end, but it will virtually assure us that there will be no chance of oil leaking into the environment,” retired Adm. Thad Allen, who oversees the spill response for the government, said in Washington.

The progress was another bright spot as the tide appeared to be turning in the months-long battle to contain the oil, with a federal report this week indicating that only about a quarter of the spilled crude remains in the Gulf and is degrading quickly.

Even so, Joey Yerkes, a 43-year-old fisherman in Destin, Fla., said he and other boaters, swimmers and scuba divers continue to find oil and tar balls in areas that have been declared clear.

“The end to the leak is good news, but the damage has been done,” Yerkes said.

If the mud plug in the blown-out well is successfully augmented with the cement, the next step involves an 18,000-foot relief well that intersects with the old well just above the vast undersea reservoir that had been losing oil freely since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off Louisiana on April 20, killing 11 workers.

The hope has been to pump mud and possibly cement down the relief well after its completion later this month, supplementing the work in this week’s static kill and stopping up the blown-out well from the bottom.

It could take at least a day for the cement pumped into the blown well to dry, and another five to seven days for crews to finish drilling the final 100 feet of the relief well. Then the pumping process in the relief well could last days or even weeks, depending on whether engineers find any oil leaks, Allen said.

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