Worried Gulf Coast Waits As BP Tries Risky Oil Spill Fix

BP began a “top kill” procedure yesterday in a risky attempt to stop the gushing from the Deepwater Horizon oil well. As of now, the company is saying it is too early to tell if the procedure is working.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, killing 11 workers. The well has been gushing oil into the ocean ever since, and has spewed at least 7 million gallons of crude into the gulf. So far, none of BP efforts to stop the leaking well have worked.

A top kill involves using heavy mud, drilling fluids and cement to plug up the well. According to a report on MSNBC, the fluid, which is twice as heavy as oil, will be pumped from two barges into two 3-inch-wide lines that will feed it into the blowout preventer. The fluid is being pumped at a rate of 1,680 to 2,100 gallons per minute to counteract the upward pressure of the oil. If it works, the well will be sealed with cement.

The top kill has worked well on land, but has never been attempted at such deep ocean depths. Earlier this week, Doug Suttles, chief operating officer at BP PLC, conceded that the odds that the top kill would actually work stood at about six or seven on a scale of ten.

There is also a chance that if it does not work, the leak could become worse. Additional leaks springing from the top kill solution were a real possibility.

BP began the top kill yesterday afternoon. So far, the company says there have been no problems. By last night, what appeared to be mud seemed to be coming from the stricken well. The procedure can be viewed 24 hours via a live feed provided by BP.

Last night, Suttles said that the fluid coming from the well could very well be mud, but said it hasn’t been confirmed because BP is unable to sample it.

On the Today Show this morning, Ed Overton, a professor in environmental sciences at Louisiana State University, said that it appeared there was “significantly less” oil coming from the well.

The top kill is being monitored from Houston by BP chief executive Tony Hayward and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Yesterday, Hayward said it would be at least 24 hours before he could say if the procedure had worked.

While people along the Gulf Coast continued to hold their breath while they waited to hear if the top kill had worked, the massive oil slick continued to come ashore in Louisiana. Governor Bobby Jindal, who was leading a boat tour near the mouth of the Mississippi River, said that at least 100 miles of the state’s coastline had been fouled so far.

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