News / USA

BP Asks For Patience As It Tries to Plug Ruptured Well

Workers along the US Gulf of Mexico try to clean up the oil coming ashore from the ruptured well.
Workers along the US Gulf of Mexico try to clean up the oil coming ashore from the ruptured well.
Nico Colombant

BP's chief operating officer is asking for patience as robots, mud and assorted junk are used in its attempt to stop the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles says metal pieces and rubber balls are being shot into the well off the Louisiana coast, in addition to heavy mud and fluids, to try to stop the leak in an operation that has been going on since Wednesday.

He said it could be Sunday or later before it becomes clear if the operation known as a "top-kill" is successful. "This job is a very critical operation. If it takes longer, we will let it take longer. We are not going to rusk it because it is too important.  And as long as we believe it will work, we will stay with it.  We do not have a set timeline to say, 'if we have not achieved a certain thing in 24 hours, we are going to quit', that is not the way we look at this operation. So as long as we believe it can be successful, we will continue to go," he said.

There are no reports of a "top-kill" ever being attempted so deep, at about 1,500 meters underwater.  There also has never been a similar operation watched this closely.  

Under pressure from the U.S. Congress, BP has made available a live video transmission of what is going on.  Several thousand websites are showing the feed.  

At the press conference in Louisiana late Friday, Suttles underlined the difficulty of the task for BP's engineers. "We are doing things that are very difficult to do.  They are on the bottom of the seabed and you can imagine. We will look at a particular job and think, 'we can perform it in two hours', sometimes it takes four.  Some of the jobs that we think we can do in half a day take a day because we are using these robotic submarines. People cannot go down there and do this and many of the things we have done have never been done before," he said.

Scientists said the video seemed to indicate BP was gaining ground, as mud now seemed to be coming out of the well, rather than mostly oil or gas, but they also said it was too early to tell if the operation would succeed.

The U.S. government estimates between 70 and 150 million liters of oil have already gushed out since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion on April 20. The rupture initially killed 11 workers and is now causing environmental degradation in surrounding waters and coastlines.

President Barack Obama has said BP will be held accountable for damages.  The U.S. president, who inspected areas of the Gulf coast Friday, also said the largest clean-up in U.S. history was underway.

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