Icelike crystals encrusting a 98 ton steel and concrete box meant to contain oil gushing from a broken well deep in the Gulf of Mexico forced crews Saturday to back off a long-shot plan to contain the leak. The buildup of crystals on the constructed containment box have made it too buoyant and clogged up the internal housing, British Petroleum chief operating officer Doug Suttles said. Workers who had carefully lowered the massive box over the leak nearly a mile below the surface had to lift it and move it to the side. Now they’re trying to unplug it while they look at other solutions. More than 200,000 gallons of crude have spewed into the Gulf since a rig exploded April 20, killing 11. The containment box, a method never before attempted at such depths, had been considered the best hope of stanching the flow in the short term. Using sensors, video cameras and undersea robots, engineers prepared to settle the 98-ton structure over the biggest of two leaks almost 1 mile (1.6 km) below the surface in a high-stakes operation that has never been tried at that depth. Company officials warned there was no certainty of success for the only short-term option for containing the leak. They are also drilling a relief well to halt the leak but it could take up to three months to complete.
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