Thursday, May 27, 2010
A US Coast Guard official said today that BP’s latest effort to plug the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been successful in slowing the amount of oil leaking from the well.
The official, Admiral Thad Allen, said that the procedure, known as a “top kill” operation, has been able to block some of the leaking oil at the source, the top of the damaged well. The operation involves pumping material into the well to plug the leak before cement is used to permanently seal the leak. Allen said the operation has “been able to force mud down and not allow any hydrocarbons to come up.”
BP hasn’t confirmed the success of the top kill operation, saying only that the “operation is proceeding as we planned it,” and that there had been no major incidents thus far. Although the possibility of failure is still present, experts say that the longer the procedure continues, the less likely it will be that anything goes wrong.
The procedure began yesterday afternoon, after diagnostics on the damaged equipment on the ocean’s surface indicated that it could withstand the added pressure of the mud being pumped into the well. Although engineers involved with the operation wore concerned that the pressure of the mud might not be able to overcome that of the oil, that has thus far not been the case.
Separately, a group of US scientists announced new estimates of how much oil was flowing from the well, ranging from 12,000 to 25,000 barrels a day, far higher than BP’s original estimate of 5,000 barrels a day, a figure which BP warned was possibly inaccurate.
In a press conference Thursday afternoon, US president Barack Obama also announced new measures in response to the spill, which include:
- Suspending off-shore test drilling for six months
- Extending the moratorium on issuing drilling permits for an additional six months
- Cancelling the sale of leases for off-shore drilling.
In statements, Obama criticized the “scandalously close relationship” between government officials and oil companies in the past, saying that the Mineral Management Service, which is the agency responsible for monitoring off-shore drilling, had been corrupt for years.