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Gulf oil spill: New blowout preventer placed on BP's troubled oil well

September 4, 2010 |  9:07 am

A new blowout preventer has been placed atop BP’s problem oil well, a move that should allow crews to drill into the well deep underground and kill it for good in about a week. 

The old blowout preventer — a now-notorious piece of hardware that failed to stop a gusher that resulted in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history -- was removed early Friday afternoon. Thad Allen, the federal spill response chief, announced just before 10 p.m. CDT that the new, stronger blowout preventer had been successfully installed.

“This is an important milestone as we move toward completing the relief well and permanently killing the Macondo 252 well,” he said, referring to the name of the offshore prospect area where the well was drilled.

Experts believe the new, stronger blowout preventer will allow them to handle any spikes in pressure that may occur when they penetrate the well underground and pump it with mud and cement –- the so-called “bottom kill” procedure that has been touted as the well’s’ ultimate seal.

After spewing 4.9 million barrels of oil, the well was fitted with a temporary cap July 15 that stopped the oil flow.

The relief well that will intersect the original well is 50 feet vertically and 3 ½ feet horizontally from the intersection point. Allen has said it will take four days to carefully complete the remaining drilling, and “several days after that” to inject the material, conduct pressure tests and declare the case officially closed.

-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta