Thirty-six hours after the beginning of a procedure whose success BP said could take 24 hours to ascertain, the oil supermajor "resumed pumping mud" into the well and "said it was too early to say whether the latest attempt to stem the leak had been successful," BBC reported.[1]  --  BBC said that BP "believes" (though is a corporation really capable of "belief"?) "that the procedure can work -- although it may not know for days yet."  --  The Miami Herald called Thursday a "day of confusion," "grim news," and "conflicting reports."[2]  --  "Thursday night's resumption might be followed with a 'junk shot' of 'plating materials' and 'dense rubber balls' to plug the leak," said Lesley Clark, Joseph Goodman, and Carol Rosenberg -- and then again, it "might" not.  --  No one seemed to know.  --  Meanwhile, the Washington Post's evocation of "a titanic struggle of forces" in the bowels of the earth put one reader in mind of something written 135 years ago by Victor Hugo for his epic work, La Légende des siècles (which Swinburne called "the greatest book published in the 19th century").  --  Hugo's lines are reproduced below with a very loose translation.[3] ...



BBC News
May 28, 2010

BP has resumed pumping mud into the leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico after briefly suspending the high-risk "top kill" procedure.

The oil giant said it was too early to say whether the latest attempt to stem the leak had been successful.

It has emerged that far more oil has poured from the well than was previously thought, which would make this the biggest spill in U.S. history.

U.S. President Barack Obama is to visit the affected area in Louisiana.

Mr. Obama has defended his government's handling of the huge oil spill.  Speaking at the White House, the president vowed to hold BP accountable for the "horrific disaster."

He unveiled a series of measures, including a continued moratorium on drilling permits for six months.

The move comes after an opinion poll said 60% of Americans were unhappy with the government's response.


BP suspended its "top kill" procedure, untested at this depth, for several hours on Thursday so it could monitor progress.

It has now resumed pumping heavy mud into the ruptured well

It says it believes the procedure can work -- although it may not know for days yet.

It would take 24-48 hours before BP engineers could tell whether "top kill" had worked, company officials said at about 2000 GMT on Thursday.

If the procedure succeeds, cement will be injected to seal the well.

New estimates from a panel of US scientists said at least 12,000 barrels (504,000 gallons) were leaking into the Gulf every day, far exceeding the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

The leak was caused by an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig on 20 April, which also killed 11 workers.

President Obama stressed that his administration, and not BP, was in charge.

But he admitted the government did not have the technology to deal with the damaged oil well nearly a mile (1.6km) below the surface, meaning that Washington must rely on BP to plug the ruptured well.


The president's comments came as questions were increasingly being asked about whether he had been sufficiently engaged in handling the disaster, says the BBC's Adam Brookes in Washington.

In a shake-up of the offshore oil industry, Mr. Obama suspended test drilling on 33 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as halting exploratory deepwater drilling for another six months.

In addition, he cancelled the sale of some offshore leases off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia.

Correspondents say the move marks a shift in policy since March, when President Obama gave the go-ahead to widen the scope for offshore drilling in order to reduce dependency on oil imports.

Hours before Mr. Obama spoke, the head of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), which oversees drilling operations, resigned.

Elizabeth Birnbaum and the MMS have come under fire from lawmakers over lax oversight of drilling operations.

The president blasted the "scandalously close relationship" between oil companies and regulators, and said officials granting exploration permits would no longer be responsible as well for ensuring safety.

Also on Thursday, Mr. Obama's top spill response official -- Coast Guard commander Admiral Thad Allen -- approved part of an ambitious plan to build barrier islands to stop oil from coming ashore in Louisiana.

The oil leak has already soiled more than 110km (70 miles) of Louisiana's coastline, threatening fragile marshlands and putting the Louisiana fishing industry at risk.

U.S. officials warned the coming hurricane season could be one of the worst on record.



Stopping the spill


By Lesley Clark, Joseph Goodman, and Carol Rosenberg

** The Obama administration disclosed new spill estimates that make it the worst in U.S. history **

Miama Herald

May 28, 2010 -- 0109 EDT

Scientists declared the 5-week-old BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico to be the worst in U.S. history on Thursday, while federal and oil industry officials capped a day of confusion by announcing they had suspended and then restarted their mud-pumping "top kill."

A 10-hour burst of 15,000 barrels of mud on Wednesday slowed the spill, said BP's Doug Suttles.  But engineers suspended the process to replenish the mud and review their procedures.

Thursday night's resumption might be followed with a "junk shot" of "plating materials" and "dense rubber balls" to plug the leak.

The news came on a day of grim news and conflicting reports about the latest effort to end the catastrophic oil spill.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen stirred confusion in a series of remarks that reported "the mud was suppressing the hydrocarbons," meaning the oil and gas leak, but failed to mention that the so-called top kill was suspended.

Then U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt disclosed a new series of studies that found the leak was a magnitude of two to five times larger than initial estimates -- and eclipsed the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska.

One team estimated the rate of release at between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels per day.  Another team using different methods found the range could have been up to 25,000, she said.

More possible bad news came from the University of South Florida College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg, which said its research vessel Weatherbird II had detected a disturbing find:  a massive new plume in the deep recesses of the gulf spreading northeast toward the continental shelf.  More tests would determine if it was contamination from the oil spill heading in a new direction -- toward Mobile Bay, Ala.

President Barack Obama addressed the nation Thursday, saying there were no guarantees of success in the latest effort to stem the leak "a mile under the surface where no human being can go."

Meantime, Elizabeth Birnbaum, head of the U.S. Minerals Management Service inside the Interior Department for less than a year, resigned after days of blistering criticism over the federal government's lax oversight of BP and the rest of the offshore oil industry.

Obama said his administration had inherited a Minerals Management Service "that had been plagued by corruption for years."  Investigators, he said, had uncovered a "scandalously close relationship" between federal regulators and the oil industry.


By Victor Hugo

La Légende des siècles

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Il est dans on ne sait quel intérieur d'antre ;
Il avance, il serpente, il fend les blocs mal joints ;
Il disloque la roche entre ses vastes poings ;
Les enchevêtrements de racines vivaces,
Les fuites d'eau mouillant de livides crevasses,
Il franchit tout ; des reins, des coudes, des talons,
Il pousse devant lui l'abîme et dit : « Allons ! »
Et le voilà perdu sous des amas funèbres,
Remuant les granits, les miasmes, les ténèbres,
Et tout le noir dessous de l'Olympe éclantant.
Par moment il s'arrête, il écoute, il entend
Sur sa tête les dieux rire, et pleurer la terre.
Bruit tragique.

In the very loose translation below, since I was thinking of petroleum I've pretended the lines can be applied to oil.  In fact, the poem is about a Titan.  But this license will be excused, perhaps since the word 'Titan' has a mineralogical origin...

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It comes from God only knows what deep inner lair;
It advances, it squirms, it splits badly joined blocks;
It wrenches rocks apart with its enormous fists;
The intricate winding of roots that are alive,
The water leaking into every deathly fissure --
It breaks through them all.  And giving all it has,
It shoves the abyss itself and mutters: "On!"
For a time it is lost underneath the deadly heap,
Moving granite, putrid fumes, and darkness alike,
The entire dark underside of shining Olympus.
And sometimes it stops.  It listens, and it hears
Overhead the gods laughing and the earth in tears.
A tragic sound.

Translated by Mark Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Phone: 253-535-7219
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.