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BP: ‘Top kill’ fails to stop Gulf oil leak, new plan readied

NEWS
BP: ‘Top kill’ fails to stop Gulf oil leak, new plan readied

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Earth

••• BP’s risky ‘top kill’ operation to plug the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has failed, the energy giant says.

BP and federal authorities are now turning to a new strategy to stop the leak, but it will take at least four to seven days before it can be put in place.

At least 75 million gallons are now estimated to have gushed into the ocean since the disaster unfolded five weeks ago, threatening an environmental and economic catastrophe across hundreds of kilometres of the U.S. Gulf Coast.

‘After three full days of attempting ‘top kill’, we have been unable to overcome the flow from the well, so we now believe it’s time to move on to the next of our options,’ BP Chief Operations Officer Doug Suttles told a news briefing.

Engineers had spent days pumping some 30,000 barrels of heavy drilling fluid into the leaking well head on the ocean floor in a high-pressure bid to smother the gushing crude and ultimately seal the well with cement.

But the effort failed, and when asked specifically why, Suttles had no direct answer.

‘We don’t know that for certain,’ he said, adding that ‘we were unable to sustainably overcome the flow’.

The announcement marks the latest failure for BP, which despite a series of high-tech operations over the past month has appeared powerless to bring the disaster to heel since an explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20 that killed eleven workers. The rig sank two days later.

The British energy giant had stressed that ‘top kill’ was the best chance at stopping the leak other than drilling an entirely new relief well, a process that has already begun but is expected to take another two months.
Efforts will now focus on severing the damaged riser pipes that lay crumpled on the ocean floor, then installing a containment device that could capture the leaking oil and siphon it to the surface.

BP and the Coast Guard said it would take four to seven days before the contraption – dubbed the ‘Lower Marine Riser Package’, or LMRP – can be put in place.

And Suttle said even if LMRP works, it would only contain a majority of the oil and not all of it.

The setback came a day after President Barack Obama visited the region for the second time since the oil spill began 40 days ago, in an attempt to bring new urgency to the response.

Obama toured some of the affected areas in Louisiana on Friday and pledged ‘to continue to do whatever it takes to help Americans whose livelihoods have been upended by the spill.’
• Source(s): BP PLC
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