News / USA

Drill Rig Returns to Gulf Oil Well After Storm

Offshore oil crews are returning to work at the site of a damaged oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, after a storm moved through the area.  Tropical Storm Bonnie delayed efforts to permanently seal the well.

Dozens of ships are returning to the site of the damaged well as calm weather returned to the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of tropical storm Bonnie, which moved through Saturday and dissipated along the Louisiana coast.

U.S. officials said one of the first ships to return to work was a drilling platform that is creating a relief well to be used to seal off the damaged well.  Crews on the ship were reconnecting sections of riser pipe that will enable them to finish drilling the relief well.

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is overseeing the response in the Gulf, said crews were hoping to resume drilling as soon as possible. "You have to prioritize what you are going to do, and obviously getting that pipe in the relief well is the most important item we are working on," he said.

Admiral Allen said it is too early to tell how much time the storm has cost efforts to seal the damaged well.  He said engineers hope to have the relief well completed by next week, when they will pump mud and cement into the top of the damaged well.  Once that is completed, crews will prepare to pump cement into the bottom of the well, to seal it off for good.

Meanwhile, Admiral Allen said military pilots had resumed flights over the Gulf to track the path of oil that has leaked from the damaged well in recent weeks.  He said weather forecasters say the storm pushed surface oil north into areas along the Louisiana coast.

"It is possible that where you had oil, it could be moved by the storm and redeposited other places.  That migration of oil is problematic because it does not come from the [well], but could be relocated from someplace else," he said.

More than a week ago, BP oil crews placed a containment cap over the damaged well, halting the leak that started April 20.  Officials say the cap has helped to reduce the amount of oil that clean-up crews are trying to collect at sea and along U.S. coastline.

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