Three attempts to pump mud and 16 tries to stuff solid material into a breached Gulf of Mexico oil well failed to stop the flow, top BP executives said Saturday, and engineers and executives with the oil giant have decided to “move on to the next option.”
Here’s what next, via CNN:
That option: Place a custom-built cap known as the “lower marine riser package” over the leak, BP chief operation officer Doug Suttles said. BP crews were already at work Saturday to ready the materials for that option, he said.
Suttles said three separate pumping efforts and 30,000 barrels of mud — along with what chief executive officer Tony Hayward described as “16 different bridging material shots” — just didn’t do the trick.
“We have not been able to stop the flow,” a somber Suttles told reporters. ” … Repeated pumping, we don’t believe, will achieve success, so we will move on to the next option.”
Suttles and other officials said that the “top kill” attempt to stop the flow did so — but only as long as they were pumping. When the pumping stopped, the oil resumed its escape. And Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said that BP would resume using undersea dispersants for the new attempt to trap the oil.
Suttles said the lower marine riser package “should be able to capture most of the oil” that has fed what is now the largest oil spill in U.S. history, but he cautioned that the new cap will not provide a “tight mechanical seal.”
“We’re confident the job will work, but obviously we cannot guarantee success at this time,” he said.
Where have we heard that before?
Engineers should be ready in about four to seven days to make the fresh attempt, he said. Landry said officials were “disappointed in today’s announcement,” but noted that the immediate efforts to stop the flow were never intended to be permanent.
“The real solution, the end state, is a relief well,” she said. BP currently is working on two relief wells, but they are not expected to be ready until August, Suttles said.
Earlier, Suttles said that BP engineers would try to place a second blowout preventer — the piece of equipment that failed when the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20 — should the lower marine riser package fail. The failed blowout preventer is a 48-foot-tall, 450-ton apparatus that sits atop the well 5,000 feet underwater.
Suttles and Landry praised the clean-up efforts, however, in light of the failure of the “top kill” attempt to stop the flow.
Sad for all concerned.