COVINGTON, La. – At 1 p.m. Central Daylight Time, BP confirmed that Engineers have begun the “top kill”. The maneuver is aimed at stanching the gush of oil from a blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
The top kill involves pumping enough mud into the gusher to overcome the flow of the well, which has leaked millions of gallons of oil into the water since the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. Engineers then plan to follow it up with cement that the company hopes will permanently seal the well. While the top kill has been successful in above ground wells is has never been tried a mile beneath the sea and is considered to only have a 60% – 70% chance of success.
PB began the procedure by pumping 50,000 pounds of thick, viscous fluid twice the density of water into the site of the leak to stop the oil flow, it said. If all goes according to plan, the well then could be sealed shut with cement.
There is a risk a weak spot in the blowout preventer that sits on top of the well could breach under the pressure, causing a brand new leak at the site 50 miles (80km) off the Louisiana coast.
The attempt comes as more hearings this week focused on exactly what led to the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and triggered the catastrophe. Senior managers from Transocean Ltd., which owned the rig, were complaining that day that BP was “taking shortcuts” by replacing heavy drilling fluid with seawater in the well, according to sworn testimony by Truitt Crawford, a rig worker.
A memo released by senior U.S. lawmakers late Tuesday detailed three warning signs in the last hour before the explosion, including sudden, unexpected pressure rises and fluid leaks. Officials are also readying back-up options but some, including the drilling of relief wells to divert the flow and allow the original well to be capped, could take several months.
Grand Isle, Louisiana, Mayor David Camardelle said patience was wearing thin. “I want the president to step in and make things happen,” Camardelle said. “We’ve been frustrated for the last 37 days, and we’re trying to get things moving the right way and our people can’t wait.”
President Obama, however, said his administration is exploring all options.”If it’s successful, and there are no guarantees, it should greatly reduce or eliminate the flow of oil now streaming into the Gulf from the seafloor,” Obama said after discussing the top kill procedure with Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “And if it’s not, there are other approaches that may be viable.”
Obama plans to announce Thursday strengthened inspections and an effort to tighten safety regulations for offshore drilling, an administration official said.