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May 20, 2010

BP to Try to Choke Leaking Well Next Week

Energy giant BP now says it likely will be Tuesday before engineers attempt to use heavy mud to choke off the blown-out oil well that has been spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico for a month.

BP's chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, made the assessment Friday in discussing the procedure, known as a "top kill," to try to plug the leak.  In previous interviews, company executives have said they planned to begin pumping the mud into the well on Sunday or Monday in an effort to stop the oil flow and then seal the well.

BP's latest estimate came as thick, sticky rust-colored crude crept deeper into the delicate marshlands of the Mississippi Delta, which is home to a wide variety of wildlife.  In Louisiana, one of the Gulf states affected by the spill, officials have accused BP of destroying fragile marshes and leaving coastal fishing communities in ruin.  A beach in the Grand Isle area was also closed as thick oil washed up.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told reporters Friday that this situation will not be over for the state until the wetlands and other affected areas are restored to what he called their pre-spill, healthy status.  Governor Jindal also said officials will make sure BP and federal agencies are committed to long-term efforts to helping Louisiana recover.

Meanwhile, BP issued a statement Friday, saying it was launching a website where the public could view live video of the flow of oil from the damaged well.  Oil and natural gas began gushing out of the well when a BP-leaded oil drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers.

The Obama administration has ordered BP to release all data related to the spill and post it on its website.  In a letter Thursday, Environmental Protection Administrator Lisa Jackson and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the company had fallen short in keeping the public informed.  

BP has acknowledged that the oil leak from a broken underwater well in the Gulf of Mexico might be larger than previously estimated.

Since late April, the company had been citing U.S. government estimates that the broken well has been leaking 5,000 barrels of oil a day.  On Friday, BP said that in the past 24 hours, about 2,200 barrels of oil had been sucked up.