Posted: Aug 9, 2010 8:03 AM by Sharlee Barriere
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The oil that poured into the Gulf for more
than 12 weeks has been forced back underground and BP engineers
expect to spend this week drilling the final leg of a relief well
to complete the "bottom kill" designed to permanently seal the
BP and the government have said for months that intersecting the
blown-out well and shoving more mud and cement into it is the
ultimate solution to making sure it never spews crude into the
The oil is already back at its source, thanks to the "static
kill," which involved thousands of gallons of mud and cement being
poured last week through a cap that had been keeping the crude out
of the water since July 15. The cement cap poured on top of the oil
hardened enough over the weekend so engineers could begin digging
the final 100 feet of the well again, according to a news release
from the company.
Before the weekend began, BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells
said he expected drilling to resume Sunday night, but the company
didn't verify if that had happened.
No one at BP or with the government has been willing to declare
victory over the spill before the relief well is finished, but
retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man
overseeing the cleanup operation, said there is virtually no chance
the oil will leak again.
An estimated 207 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of
Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off Louisiana on
April 20. The explosion killed 11 workers and sent crude into
delicate coastal marshes and tar balls washing on to beaches.
BP's cost to respond to the spill has risen to $6.1 billion, the
company said in a Monday news release.
With the oil stopped, attention this week turns to the so-called
"bottom kill." Once the wells intersect, engineers will pump more
mud and cement into the busted well to completely seal it.
Workers will drill the relief well 20 to 30 feet at a time, then
pause to make sure it is still lined up properly and everything is
OK with the capped well.
BP and the federal government didn't appear to be on the same
page for part of last week after the oil giant suggested it might
use the relief well for something other than the bottom kill.
"I wouldn't put it government versus BP," Wells said
Wednesday. "This is just about some really smart people debating
about what's the best way to do things."
But Allen told CBS' "Face the Nation" he went directly to BP's
incoming CEO to tell him there was only one option.
"I've discussed this with Bob Dudley," Allen said Sunday.
"The relief well will finish."
One factor that could complicate drilling and cleanup work this
week is a cluster of storms off the eastern coast of Florida
expected to move across the state and along the northern Gulf.
The National Weather Service only gives it a slim chance to
develop into a tropical storm in the next few days, but it should
still bring a greater chance of heavy rain and thunderstorms by
Wednesday. And if it does develop further, gusty winds and choppy
seas could follow, said Tim Destri, a senior meteorologist with the
weather service's New Orleans office.
Along the Gulf Coast, life is different. In tiny Theriot, La.,
the bayou-country, pre-shrimp season tradition known as the
"Blessing of the Boats" went on with barbecued chicken, smoked
sausage and potato salad instead of the usual shrimp and crab.
Louisiana has set Aug. 16 as the opening for a fall shrimp
season along the coast, but some waters will likely remain closed
as federal authorities test the safety of the seafood.
"I got a boat that's ready," said Ravin Lacoste, 57. "But we
don't know what's going to open up."
And even though the flow of oil has stopped, Allen told CNN's
"State of the Union" the response to the spill will continue for
a long time.
"It's still an environmental disaster and if folks haven't come
back to the Panhandle of Florida, it's still a disaster," he said.
"I think what we need to understand is there's a lot of oil that's
been taken care of, there's a lot of oil that's still out there.
There's a lot of shoreline that needs to be cleaned."