BP prepares for latest attempt to plug oil well in Gulf of Mexico

25 May 2010 21:54  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--BP was making final preparations on Tuesday for its latest bid to plug the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico amid indications that the “top kill” operation would start early on Wednesday.

BP was planning to run diagnostic tests throughout the day on Tuesday to ensure that the procedure would not backfire and make the oil leak worse, senior vice president Kent Wells said.

Assuming the attempt would not backfire, the ensuing top kill operation would involve the injection of heavy drilling fluids into the well to completely stem the flow, followed by cement to seal the well.

Most of the equipment was on site, said BP, which stuck with a timetable of the “next few days” for deployment.

However, indications were that the operation would begin on Wednesday. US Representative Edward Markey (Democrat-Massachusetts) said BP had informed his office on Tuesday that the live internet feed of BP’s oil leak recovery efforts would be terminated early on Wednesday and would remain off line until after the attempt at the top kill was completed.

“It is outrageous that BP would kill the video feed for the top kill,” Markey said. “This BP blackout will obscure a vital moment in this disaster.

“After more than a month of spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP is essentially saying to the American people the solution will not be televised,” he added.

The company had come increasingly under fire from US officials in recent days for its inability to find a solution to the oil leak.

BP, however, denied that it had made a final decision on whether to suspend the webcam coverage and said it was working closely with government agencies.

"Over the next few days, we will be carrying out a sensitive and complex procedure involving multiple simultaneous operations, and we are in active discussion as to whether the live feed from the sea bed that we have been broadcasting will continue to provide meaningful information through this complicated and unpredictable procedure," the company said in a statement.

"Any statement that a decision has already been taken to stop the feed is both inaccurate and premature."

BP previously said it expected the top kill operation to have a 60-70% chance of success.

Should the top kill operation not work, other options included the placement of a “top hat” containment device over the larger leak and the injection of a “junk shot” – including golf balls, pieces of rubber tyres and other debris – into the well’s failed blowout preventer (BOP).

In the meantime, BP and US officials were also continuing to await a new estimate from a government panel on the size of the leak, after the company acknowledged that the prior 5,000 bbl/day estimate appeared too small.

Oil began spewing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico after a 20 April explosion sank the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon offshore rig.

Cleanup costs for the spill had already reached $760m (€616m), BP said on Monday.

($1 = €0.81)

For more on BP visit ICIS company intelligence
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By: Ben DuBose
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