BP Plc's critical "top kill" effort to smother a gushing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is making progress, but the company can't call it a success or failure until Sunday, Chief Executive Tony Hayward said.
Hayward said on Friday in a series of television interviews that the procedure, which began Wednesday afternoon, was operating "according to plan" and it would be another 48 hours before BP had "a conclusive view."
"We don't know whether we will be able to overcome the well," he told NBC's "Today" show. He reiterated that the effort has a 60 percent to 70 percent chance of working.
The well has been leaking thousands of barrels of oil each day for five weeks, after a blowout preventer at the seabed failed and Transocean Ltd's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank, killing 11 workers.
Analysts say the top kill is increasingly seen as a crucial juncture as oil has invaded some of Louisiana's delicate marshlands and threatens much of the U.S. Gulf Coast.
"If the top kill hasn't fixed this by Monday, there are going to be lots of frustrated people (politicians, investors, U.S. citizens, etc.) and we'd expect the tension/anger level about the spill to dial up yet another notch," said Houston energy investment and merchant bank Tudor Pickering Holt & Co.
The top kill involves pumping drilling "mud," or heavy fluids, into the blowout preventer so it will push the oil back down the well and stop the leak.
BP began pumping mud Wednesday afternoon, then stopped overnight to analyze pressure readings. High pressure means oil is still leaking, while lower pressure indicates the mud is pushing it down.
Some mud went up instead of down and escaped from the larger leak at the end of a broken pipe and a smaller leak where the pipe is bent as it extends from the top of a piece of equipment atop the blowout preventer. BP couldn't say how much mud escaped.
The junk shot
Hayward said that late Thursday afternoon and into the night BP pumped a "junk shot" -- more solid materials like shredded rubber and golf balls -- into the blowout preventer to add heft.
"We have some indications of partial bridging which is good news," Hayward told CNN on Friday.
Hayward said BP would resume pumping mud on Friday.
BP has said the last step of the kill will be to pump cement into the well to plug the leak.
If the top kill fails, BP has two more options on tap.
First, BP would cut the bent pipe from the lower marine riser package, or LMRP, atop the blowout preventer and place a cap over the opening. The cap would be connected to a pipe that would transport "most" of the oil to a drillship at the water's surface, BP said in a statement on Friday.
The LMRP cap is already at the seabed near the blowout preventer, BP said.
Second, BP can place a second blowout preventer atop the failed one, the company said.
Drilling began on two relief wells earlier this month, each a half-mile from the leaking well, intended to intercept and cap it far beneath the seabed.
However, Transocean Chief Executive Steven Newman said on Friday that one has stopped while the top kill is ongoing.
A BP spokesman couldn't immediately explain why the second drilling operation stopped while the first continued.
ReutersLast Mod: 28 Mayıs 2010, 20:28