After abandoning its latest bid to plug its blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico, BP Plc on will start a new and risky attempt on Tuesday to place a cap over the leak to funnel oil to the surface.
BP abandoned its "top kill" attempt to plug the well on Saturday after several attempts to pump thousands of barrels of mud down the well failed to stop the flow of oil, which U.S. scientists peg at up to 19,000 barrels per day.
The top kill strategy was BP's best short-term shot at plugging the seabed well. BP's remaining short-term options offer untried ways to contain the spewing oil but few ways to stop it completely.
On Tuesday, undersea robots will use a diamond-coated saw to cut through the riser pipe atop a giant stack of pipes called the lower marine riser package, or LMRP. Workers will lower a containment dome and place it atop the LMRP to funnel oil to a tanker on the surface.
The move could temporarily increase the amount of oil gushing into the sea by about 20 percent, U.S. officials said.
"Later on this morning we should see ... robots putting giant shears and cutting parts of that pipe about 35 feet (11 meters) away from the wellhead followed by a robot making a clean diamond saw cut across the top of it," BP managing director Bob Dudley said on CBS's Early Edition show. "That will allow us to put this dome down."
"I think you will see that these containment domes will work," he said. The cap is expected to be deployed later this week, BP said.
White House advisor Carol Browner said the possibility that the flow will temporarily increase is "deeply, deeply troubling."
Analysts are skeptical that BP's new plan will succeed.
"Given the fact that the previous plans (which had higher chances of success) have failed, this new prospect does not give us any real confidence that it will succeed," analysts from U.K firm Arbuthnot Research said in a note to clients.
"Systems such as the LMRP containment cap have never before been deployed at these depths and conditions and their efficiency and ability to contain the oil and gas cannot be assured," BP said in a news statement on Tuesday.
U.S. government scientists estimated that cutting the riser pipe coming out of the blowout preventer to prepare for the next containment option could result in a temporary oil flow increase of up to 20 percent.
Dudley acknowledged more oil will be released. "There will be a little bit more oil, somewhere between 0 and 20 percent more," he told CBS.
The company is also drilling two relief wells that are expected to ultimately plug the ruptured well but will not be completed until August.
The first relief well, which began on May 2, has reached a depth of 12,090 feet (3,687 meters). The second well, started on May, 16 has reached a depth of 8,576 (2,616 meters) before drilling was halted. Operations on that well resumed May 30, BP said.
ReutersLast Mod: 01 Haziran 2010, 18:28