Oil company BP has begun removing a temporary cap and failed safety valve from the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Company spokesman Neil Chapman told VOA the work began shortly before midday Thursday. He said he expects the procedure to take most of the day.
The safety valve, known as a blowout preventer, is a device designed to shut down an oil well in the event of an accident such as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion April 20 that resulted in the Gulf oil spill.
National Incident Commander retired Admiral Thad Allen told reporters Wednesday that after the blowout preventer is removed, it will be brought to the surface and examined by investigators. Allen said that when the new blowout preventer is in place, work on a relief well will resume, eventually allowing for crews to permanently seal the well from the bottom with mud and cement.
If all goes well, Allen expects that process to be completed sometime next week.
Work to remove the well cap and blowout preventer was halted Monday because of high seas in the area.
The April 20 explosion killed 11 people and ruptured the well. An estimated 5 million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf, fouling beaches and marshlands and devastating the region's fishing and tourism industries.
The temporary cap put in place in mid-July halted that oil flow.