Environmental news from California and beyond

« Previous Post | Greenspace Home | Next Post »

Gulf oil spill: Well to stay sealed for another 24 hours

July 20, 2010 |  2:02 pm

The federal government will allow oil company BP to keep the seal on its Deep Horizon well for another 24 hours, and expects to receive details during that time of the company's plan to shoot mud into the top of the well as part of an effort to fully seal it.

Thad Allen, the federal oil spill response chief, said Tuesday that the pressure inside the well remained stable and has been rising slowly.

He also said that leaks and anomalies discovered this weekend near the well were not considered "consequential." One leak of a substance from the sea floor found about two miles from the well site was not believed to be related to the BP well, he said.

The government and BP are monitoring the well closely to ensure that the cap does not exacerbate oil leaks that may exist in the well's underground pipes. That scenario could lead to multiple leaks in the ocean floor and exponentially make the disaster more difficult to manage.

If any cracks in the well are suspected, the containment cap would be reopened, and oil would again flow into the Gulf of Mexico until a sufficient number of container ships could haul away the crude.

Allen said that experts were still discussing the possibility of pumping mud into valves on the sealed cap atop the well in an attempt to plug up the well from the top.

Even if this "top kill" procedure were carried out, Allen said BP would still want to plug the well with mud and cement from the bottom, using a relief well that is close to being ready to intersect the original well.

Allen also said the government was closely monitoring a system in the gulf that may soon develop into a tropical storm. But he said that there appeared to be a low probability that high winds from the system would affect the work over the well site.

-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta