‘Top kill’ scrapped after effort comes up short

‘TOP KILL’ SCRAPPED AFTER EFFORT COMES UP SHORT…. The “top kill” approach had been deemed the best short-term solution to the gusher of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. Officials pumped 30,000 barrels of mud into the well, and there was some evidence mid-week that the attempts were having an effect.

The progress proved to be illusory, and the pressure of the gusher proved to be too strong. After some fits and starts, yesterday, “top kill” was scrapped altogether.

In another serious setback in the effort to stem the flow of oil gushing from a well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico, BP engineers said Saturday that the “top kill” technique had failed and, after consultation with government officials, they had decided to move on to another strategy.

Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer for exploration and production, said at a news conference that the engineers would try once again to solve the problem with a containment cap and that it could take four to seven days for the device to be in place.

“After three full days of attempting top kill, we now believe it is time to move on to the next of our options,” Mr. Suttles said.

An anonymous technician on the scene said, “The engineers are disappointed, and management is upset. Nothing is good, nothing is good.”

The next effort will be an adapted version of a previous attempt, with a containment structure intended to fit over the leak. The structure would then funnel the oil to ships on the surface. A similar previous effort failed, but BP officials claim to have learned valuable lessons from that experience.

Then again, BP officials claim a lot of things, and even if this works exactly as planned, the mechanism will still only capture most of the oil, not all.

This new cap procedure will be ready in four to seven days.

The ideal solution, everyone seems to agree, are the two relief wells, which are continuing to move forward. But while the wells are the most likely to work, they’re also the slowest — the drilling of the relief wells is not scheduled to be complete until August. One of the two wells is reportedly ahead of schedule, but even if that pace continues, it won’t be ready until July.

Once “top kill” had been scrapped, the White House issued a statement from the president, which said in part, “As I said yesterday, every day that this leak continues is an assault on the people of the Gulf Coast region, their livelihoods, and the natural bounty that belongs to all of us. It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking, and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimized by this manmade disaster are made whole.”