Environmental news from California and beyond

« Previous Post | Greenspace Home | Next Post »

Gulf oil spill: Effort to seal well may be delayed

May 25, 2010 |  7:49 am

The much-anticipated attempt to seal the explosion-damaged well gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico may not start on Wednesday, officials of oil giant BP said Tuesday morning.

Equipment is in place to begin the "top kill" -- an effort to stop the leak by pumping heavy drilling mud into the well at a rate of 40 to 50 barrels of per minute, followed by concrete -- said Kent Wells, BP senior vice president for exploration and production.

Before it can start, Wells said, engineers must complete "extensive" diagnostic testing of the pressure dynamics associated with the well. Wells said that testing will begin "in the next day or so" and last 12 to 24 hours. The start of the top kill could come Wednesday "or extend out from there" later into the week, he said.

"We want to make sure we're taking advantage of every piece of information we have" to succeed in the top kill, Wells said. BP officials had earlier said the procedure would likely begin Wednesday. Obama administration officials have expressed increasing irritation with the slipping time-line to start the attempt.

-- Jim Tankersley

Photo: A broken oil boom snakes through the water at Elmer's Island, Louisiana, where cleanup crews have worked for days trying to remove oil from the beach.  Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

Photos: Oil spill spreads

Hi-res photos: Gulf oil spill

Photos: Past oil disasters