August 14, 2010

BP Well Sealed, Relief Well Work Continues

The damaged oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has been sealed using a top kill operation, but US officials said Friday they still plan to make sure it is truly "killed" by pumping cement in through a relief well workers have been drilling since April.

US spill chief Thad Allen assured that they were "very close to having the well secured."

Pressure tests confirmed that the well no longer has "direct communication with the reservoir" thanks to the top kill operation which pumped drilling mud and cement down through the wellhead, said Allen.

The well may be "effectively killed and we just don't know it," Allen said. But he said that he would not be satisfied until he was certain oil would never leak out of the well again.

The well's annulus -- the space between the inner well tubing and the outer casting -- is believed to have trapped 1,000 barrels of oil since cement was pumped in from above effectively sealing the annulus from the surface. But to make sure it is effectively killed, officials made the decision to continue with the so-called "bottom kill" operation.

It has been agreed upon "that we need to proceed with the relief well," Allen told AFP. The only question is, how to do it?

One possibility is to install a new blowout preventer on top of the capped well to make sure oil doesn't escape if a mistake is made during the bottom kill operation, he said.

Allen was able to provide a date for completion, but said it will take about 96 hours (4 days) to finish the bottom kill, which was delayed for a few days due to an approaching storm.

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is the largest-scale maritime disaster on record. Nearly five million barrels of oil were spilled into the Gulf -- enough to fill 311 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

It threatened marine wildlife all along the US Gulf Coast with environmental ruin and put coastal residential communities into months of anguish over how the disaster will affect their livelihoods and the region's future.


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