BP top kill, junk shot fail; moving on to next option

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May 29, 2010, 6:34 pm
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(NECN: Robert, La.) - Another in the line of attempts to stop the flow of oil from the leaking Deepwater Horizon well was declared a failure by British Petroleum on Saturday.

BP COO Doug Suttles said his company would be moving on to the next option, which will, in all likelihood, not capture all the leaking oil.

"After three full days of attempting top kill, we have been unable to overcome the flow from the well," Suttles said.  "We now believe it's time to move on to the next of our options, which is the LMRP (Lower Marine Riser Package) cap."

He said over 30,000 barrels of mud and the junk shot technique -- a collection of materials like used golf balls and tires -- could not overcome the flow of oil in the leaking riser, and he is unsure why it failed. A collection of scientists, BP officials and government agencies made the decision to move on to the LMRP cap option.

"The repeated pumping, we don't believe, will likely achieve success. So at this point it's time to move to the next option," Suttles said.

He called the operation a complex one, consisting of the cutting and removal of the existing riser from the top of the LMRP, the installation of a cap connected to a tanker at the Gulf surface to pump oil from the leaking well. It could take four to seven days to be completed, allowing more oil to pollute the Gulf of Mexico.

"This operation should be able to capture most of the oil. I want to stress the word 'most', because it's not a tight mechanical seal," Suttles said, continuing to lean on the qualifier that no one has attempted to cap a leak at these depths. "We're confident the job will work, but obviously we cannot guarantee success at this time."

Past failed attempts included a gigantic box placed over the leak and a tube inserted to siphon the oil away. The box failed after ice-like crystals clogged it, while the tube was removed to make way for the top kill after it sucked up more than 900,000 gallons of oil.

The cap is a specifically engineered containment device, separate from the containment box, designed to fit over the freshly cut element.

A relief well is in the process of being drilled, but it has about 6,000 more feet to go. Suttles said it will not likely be operational until early August.

BP's COO said the oil slick on the Gulf surface has reduced.

"The amount of oil on the surface of the sea continues to be reduced. This is a credit to the men and women who are fighting this offshore, and the amount of equipment and resources we're all deploying to that activity," Suttles said.

Material from The Associated Press used in this report.

Tags: oil spill, BP, British Petroleum, oil leak, Doug Suttles, Gulf oil spill, top kill, junk shot
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