The undersea well responsible for the massive BP oil spill could be permanently plugged this weekend. Yesterday, a relief well BP has been drilling since May intersected the ruptured Gulf of Mexico well, paving the way for a final procedure to plug it with cement through the bottom.
The BP oil spill began on April 20, when a massive explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 men. More than 4 million barrels of oil gushed into the ocean before BP was able to cap the well from above on July 15. Hundreds of miles of US coastline were fouled by oil, and the Gulf Coast’s vital seafood and tourism industries were devastated in the aftermath. BP has already spent more than $8 billion responding to the spill.
A statement from BP did not say when the final operation will begin. However, the oil company said it should be completed sometime Saturday.
According to BP’s statement, tests showed there was no cement or oil and gas in the annulus -the space between the wellâ€™s metal casing and the surrounding rock – at the point where it was intercepted by the relief well. As a result, BP said there is no need to perform a “bottom kill”, a procedure where heavy drilling mud would be pumped into the annulus through the relief well. Instead, crews will pump only cement into the annulus for the final seal.
Of course, the disaster is far from over. The environmental cleanup could take years, and no one knows how long it will take the delicate Gulf Coast ecosystem to recover. And of course, there are still thousand of people whose incomes were destroyed by the spill waiting for their compensation claims to be paid.
Finally, BP and its partners on the Deepwater Horizon rig face a number of civil and criminal investigations, and the litigation surrounding the oil spill is likely to continue for years.