It could be 24-48 hours before BP Plc can tell if its "top kill" operation to plug a blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico will succeed, a company spokesman said on Thursday.
Last week BP began broadcasting video images of its leaking underwater oil well, following pressure from U.S. Congressional leaders concerned about the lack of progress in halting what is now the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
Since then the images have focused on a plume of black crude oil flowing from a pipe, called a riser, which is connected to the well head. However, on Thursday all video has been of the equipment at the top of the well.
On Wednesday BP began its latest attempt to plug the well, in an operation dubbed "top kill", involving pumping heavy drilling fluid into the blow out preventer, a heavy piece of equipment that sits on top of the well. The goal is to stall the flow of oil with the heavy fluids and then pump concrete into the well to shut if off for good.
Some of the mud being pumped into the blow out preventer travelled up the riser, expanding the plume of leaking oil, and this was what obstructed the camera, Pack said. He said he was unaware if it would be possible to solve the problem and restore images of the leaking riser.
On Thursday BP said it was making progress on plugging the ruptured well as U.S. government figures showed the disaster has eclipsed the previous worst U.S. oil spill caused by the sinking of the tanker Exxon Valdez in 1989.
BP shares jumped 6.0 percent in London on the comments from BP and from the U.S. Coast Guard suggesting the flow of oil had already been restricted by the pumping of the drilling mud into the blow out preventer.
The success or failure of the latest operation to stop the oil spill will continue to move the company's shares, analysts at French bank Societe Generale said in a research note on Thursday.
The oil company is aware that traders are watching the live video link closely for signs that the operation has succeeded but has warned that images from the seabed will be an unreliable indicator of progress.
BP said at around 1800 CDT (2300 GMT) on Wednesday that it would take 24 hours to know if the latest operation had been a success.
ReutersLast Mod: 28 Mayıs 2010, 01:25