It is the well that will not die. BP’s three-day effort to throttle the leaking gulf oil well with multiple blasts of heavy mud has failed. The attempted “top kill” of the well was abandoned late Saturday afternoon, leaving the huge Macondo field deep beneath the sea floor once again free to pump at least half a million gallons of crude a day into the gulf.
“I can say we tried. But what I can also say is this scares everybody, the fact that we can’t make this well stop flowing, or haven’t succeeded in that so far,” Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer, said in a late-day news conference.
“There’s no silver bullet to stop this leak,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said.
The top kill — a term most Americans had never heard until it became part of the new national vocabulary along with “blowout preventer,” “containment dome” and “junk shot” — had been seen as the best hope for turning the oil spill into something finite in volume. Now BP must fall back on a containment strategy in the near term, hoping to capture as much oil as possible.
Sitting on the sea floor and awaiting deployment is a new containment dome, what the company calls the Lower Marine Riser Package cap. With robotic submarines, the company will sever the leaking, kinked riser pipe that emerges from the top of the blowout preventer, the five-story-tall contraption on top of the wellhead.
Then engineers will guide the LMRP cap onto the pipe. The cap is fitted with a grommet designed to keep out seawater and prevent the formation of slushy methane hydrates that bedevilled an earlier containment dome effort. The cap procedure will take four to seven days, officials say.
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