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Jun 20, 2010 6:49 PM by Chris Welty

Crews Drill Deep into Gulf of Mexico to Halt Leak

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO (AP) - Drilling crews are grinding ever
deeper to build the relief wells that are the best hope of stopping
the massive oil leak at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
The crew of Transocean Ltd.'s Development Driller II finished
pouring cement Sunday morning on a section of metal casing lining
one of two relief wells now at roughly 5,000 feet, said Mickey
Fruge, BP's wellsite leader aboard the rig. When that cement is
firm on Monday, the rig's crew will keep extending the well.
BP and government officials say the wells are the best option
for cutting off the gusher that has spilled as much as 125 million
gallons into the Gulf since the Transocean drilling rig Deepwater
Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. A separate rig had
drilled to a depth of nearly 11,000 feet, a BP spokesman said
Sunday.
Back on land, coastal residents were infuriated by news that BP
PLC CEO Tony Hayward was taking a break from overseeing efforts to
stop the leak to watch his 52-foot yacht, "Bob," compete in a
race around the Isle of Wight off southern England.
"Man, that ain't right. None of us can even go out fishing, and
he's at the yacht races," said Bobby Pitre, 33, who runs a tattoo
shop in Larose, La. "I wish we could get a day off from the oil,
too."
BP spokespeople rushed to defend Hayward, who has drawn biting
criticism as the public face of BP's halting efforts to stop the
spill. BP is responsible for the cleanup because it was leasing the
rig when it blew up.
"He's spending a few hours with his family at a weekend," said
BP spokesman Robert Wine. "I'm sure that everyone would understand
that."
The PR gaffe - yet another in a series by Hayward and the
company - ended what could have been a good week for BP. About 50
miles off Louisiana's coast, a newly expanded containment system is
capturing or incinerating more than 1 million gallons of oil daily,
the first time it has approached its peak capacity, according to
the Coast Guard.
BP hopes that by late June it will keep nearly 90 percent of the
flow from the broken pipe from hitting the ocean.
It will likely be August before crews finish drilling the relief
wells.
On the Development Driller II, one of two rigs working on the
effort, BP wellsite leader Mickey Fruge said the well has reached a
depth of roughly 5,000 feet below the seafloor. There's still
another 8,000 feet to go.
The other well is deeper, but drilling superintendent Wendell
Guidry says it's anyone's guess which team will intersect the
damaged well first.
"The main thing is, you know, we try to keep the guys
focused," Guidry said. "We're just treating this like we treat
any other well that we drill."
Once a relief well intersects with the damaged well, BP plans to
shoot heavy drilling mud down the well bore, then plug it with
cement.
Meanwhile, Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Bill
Nelson of Florida said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday that
they have asked President Barack Obama to give the Navy a bigger
role in the efforts to clean up the spill, which are now being
overseen by the Coast Guard.
But asked on "Fox News Sunday" if the Pentagon could be doing
more to help stop the leak or keep oil from washing up on shore,
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said no.
"We have offered whatever capabilities we have," he said. "We
don't have the kinds of equipment or particular expertise."
Also Sunday, U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., released new
internal BP documents estimating 2.3 million to 4.2 million gallons
of oil a day could gush from the damaged well if all equipment
restricting the flow was removed and company models were wrong.
The current worst-case estimate of what's leaking is 2.5 million
gallons a day.
The documents anticipate a scenario where the blowout preventer
and other equipment on the sea floor were removed, which was never
done.
BP spokesman Tony Odone said the documents were submitted to
Congress before BP America President Lamar McKay testified in early
May.

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