Adm. Thad Allen said the flow of oil from Gulf Disaster has stopped, "but BP warned it would be a further 48 hours before it was known whether the 'top kill' procedure had been successful," MSNBC reported Friday morning.[1]  --  About an hour later, the Wall Street Journal reported that BP had "carried out a . . . so-called 'junk shot' procedure involves injecting material such as pieces of rope, shredded rubber tires, and golf balls into the crippled blowout preventer."[2] ...


Gulf oil spill


** But BP says it will be 48 hours before success of 'top kill' will be known **

May 28, 2010 -- updated 0611 PDT

WASHINGTON -- The flow of oil from the broken well in the Gulf of Mexico has stopped, the U.S. incident commander Admiral Thad Allen claimed Friday, but BP warned it would be a further 48 hours before it was known whether the "top kill" procedure had been successful.

The next 12 to 18 hours would be "very critical" in the effort to stop the gusher which has caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history, Allen said on ABC's Good Morning America show.

BP's CEO Tony Hayward told NBC's TODAY show that the top kill attempt, which involves shooting heavy drilling mud into the blown-out well 5,000 feet underwater, was "proceeding pretty well according to plan."

But the exec maintained that the procedure, which has never been attempted before so deep underwater, still had only a 60-70 percent chance of success, although some of the risks had been reduced.

"It will probably be another 48 hours before we know if we've met the success," Hayward added.

If the procedure works, BP will inject cement into the well to seal it permanently.

If the "top kill" attempt doesn't work, BP says it has a number of backup plans.  Either way, crews will continue to drill two relief wells, considered the only surefire way to stop the leak

Obama was to attend a briefing Friday at the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Grand Isle, La., by Adm. Thad Allen, who is overseeing the response to the spill.

It would be Obama's second visit to the region since the disaster began with an April 20 explosion at the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 workers.

He seized ownership Thursday of what he called a "tremendous catastrophe," after weeks of allowing Cabinet members take the public lead as the crippled BP PLC well spewed millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf from nearly a mile below the surface.

"I take responsibility.  It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down," Obama declared at a White House news conference dominated by the spill.

For everyone, the stakes grew even higher Thursday as government scientists said the oil has been flowing at a rate 2 1/2 to five times higher than what BP and the U.S. Coast Guard initially estimated.

Even using the most conservative estimate, that means about 18 million gallons have spilled so far. In the worst-case scenario, 39 million gallons have leaked.  The previous largest U.S. oil spill, the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, spilled nearly 11 million gallons.


In another troubling discovery, marine scientists said they have spotted a huge new plume of what they believe to be oil deep beneath the Gulf, stretching 22 miles from the leaking well head northeast toward Mobile Bay, Alabama.

They fear it could have resulted from using chemicals a mile below the surface to break up the oil.

Obama, meanwhile, has been under mounting criticism -- even from members of his own Democratic Party -- for seeming aloof to what could be the biggest environmental tragedy in U.S. history.

Asked about inevitable comparisons between his administration's handling of the disaster with his predecessor's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which flooded New Orleans and other areas, Obama said:  "I'll leave it to you guys to make those comparisons. . . . What I'm thinking about is how do you solve the problem?"

Comparisons to former President George W. Bush's paltry response to the devastating storm have come mainly from opposition Republicans.

"I'm confident people are going to look back and say this administration was on top of what was an unprecedented crisis," he said.  "We've got to get it right."

Obama is struggling for high ground in the political wars raging in the months before the November congressional elections, where his Democratic majorities in both House and Senate are in danger.

He has passed through bruising legislative sessions and took a notable battering from Republicans as he pushed through health care overhaul.

Now Obama is struggling to keep congressional Democrats focused on financial regulatory reform while trying to smooth the Senate confirmation of his second Supreme Court nominee.

The president, who campaigned on a promise to change the way Washington does business, blasted a "scandalously close relationship" he said has persisted between Big Oil and government regulators.

Conceding that "people are going to be frustrated" until the well is capped, Obama said he would use the full force of the federal government to extract damages from BP.

"We will demand they pay every dime they owe for the damage they've done and the painful losses they've caused," Obama said.

He spoke shortly after the head of the troubled agency that oversees offshore drilling resigned under pressure.  The departure of Minerals Management Service Director Elizabeth Birnbaum was announced just before Obama's news conference began.



By Guy Chazan

Wall Street Journal
May 28, 2010 -- 0706 PDT

BP PLC said it carried out a new procedure to plug its stricken well on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico in the latest phase of its complex operation to stanch what has been confirmed as the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The so-called "junk shot" procedure involves injecting material such as pieces of rope, shredded rubber tires, and golf balls into the crippled blowout preventer, the huge stack of valves sitting on the ocean floor, to clog it up and stanch the flow.  BP officials have likened it to "plugging up a toilet."

The junk shot is the latest stage of BP's "top kill," the company's most ambitious effort yet to cap a well nearly a mile deep that has been spewing oil into the Gulf ever since the Deepwater Horizon rig caught fire and sank last month.

It came as President Barack Obama prepared to visit Louisiana for the second time since the crisis began, and with the White House under mounting pressure over its response to the spill. Federal officials said Thursday that the leak was gushing at a rate of between 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day -- much more than previous estimates.  That would make the spill already much larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.

Much is hanging on the top kill, which has never been attempted in waters of such depths.  Although BP says it is ready to deploy other options if the top kill fails, there's a risk oil will continue to flow until a second well can be drilled to intercept the leak -- a process that could take another two months at least.

As part of the top kill, BP engineers have been pumping drilling fluid under pressure into the blowout preventer.  The fluid is supposed to be heavy enough to counteract the pressure of the oil surging out of the well.  If successful, cement would then be injected into the well to seal it.

BP Managing Director Bob Dudley Thursday compared the process to an "arm-wrestling match with two fairly equal-rated forces."

But BP officials said late Thursday that much of the injected kill mud was flowing out into the ocean instead of going down the well.

They said shooting debris, called bridging agent, into the blowout preventer would plug the gaps in the device and ensure more of the mud is diverted into the well.

BP said it had suspended the pumping operation for much of Thursday to monitor the results of the first phase of the top kill, but resumed the procedure late Thursday night.

In a statement Friday morning, BP said the top kill could extend for another 24 to 48 hours.  It said the cost of the response to the Gulf oil spill now stood at $930 million, including claims paid and federal costs.

--Write to Guy Chazan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.