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BP Resumes Efforts to Plug Oil Leak


The U.S. Coast Guard says the energy company BP has resumed pumping mud-like fluids into a well to plug the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

The pumping operations resumed late Thursday after BP had suspended the process to restock the fluids.

Earlier Thursday, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said the current procedure calls for pumping mud-like heavy fluids into the well to combat the oil flow, then using cement to seal it off. Suttles said if the leak continues, the company may have to try to use even heavier mud, or attempt a so-called "junk shot" in which golf balls and pieces of rubber will be injected into the well head at high speeds.

U.S. officials estimate the well has been leaking 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil a day, making it the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

The U.S. official overseeing the cleanup, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, said the new procedure to stop the leak could take 24 to 36 hours. He called the leak "catastrophic" and said officials are reviewing reports of illness among cleanup workers.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to visit the Gulf region on Friday.

Watch/Listen to President Obama's press conference on the Gulf oil spill

On Thursday, President Obama said the government is in charge of efforts to stop the oil leak, countering criticism that his administration has not been engaged.

Mr. Obama said Thursday that BP, which operated the well and is handling efforts to plug it, is under federal direction. He said he takes full responsibility for shutting the well down and cleaning up the spill, and that BP will be held held accountable for causing the disaster.

An oil rig exploded in the Gulf on April 20, killing 11 workers and rupturing the undersea well.

In response to the oil spill, Mr. Obama said he is extending a ban on new deepwater oil projects for six months to prevent other disasters. The move will also suspend applications for Arctic oil drilling off the coast of Alaska.

An official with the energy company BP says a new effort to plug a massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is proceeding according to plan, but said the leak has not yet been stopped.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles says the procedure will try to stop the oil leak by pumping mud-like heavy fluids into the well to combat the flow, then using cement to seal it off. The company has stopped pumping operations to restock fluids and will resume later Thursday night. Suttles said if the leak continues, the company may have to try to use even heavier mud, or try a so-called "junk shot" in which golf balls and pieces of rubber will be injected into the well head at high speeds.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry says the well has been leaking 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil a day, making it the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

The U.S. official overseeing the cleanup, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, said the new procedure to stop the leak could take 24 to 36 hours. He called the leak "catastrophic" and said officials are reviewing reports of illness among cleanup workers.


Earlier Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama said the government is in charge of efforts to stop the oil leak, countering criticism that his administration has not been engaged.

Mr. Obama said Thursday BP, which operated the well and is handling efforts to plug it, is under federal direction. He said he takes full responsibility for shutting the well down and cleaning up the spill, and that BP will be held held accountable for causing the disaster.

An oil rig exploded in the Gulf on April 20, killing 11 workers and rupturing the undersea well.

In response to the oil spill, Mr. Obama said he is extending a ban on new deepwater oil projects for six months to prevent other disasters. The move will also suspend applications for Arctic oil drilling off the coast of Alaska.

Frustration with BP and the government's response has risen as oil washes up on southern coastlines, endangering wildlife and the commercial fishing industry.

U.S. officials have closed 20 percent of federal fishing grounds in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the spill. Fishermen in the state of Louisiana are pressing BP to compensate them for the losses to their businesses.

President Obama is expected to visit the Gulf region on Friday.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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