'Top Kill' Attempt to Plug Oil Leak is Working So Far, Says Coast Guard Admiral [Updated]


BP's robots are inspecting the well-head to see if the top kill succeeded. Image: BP
It's Working So Far, But Not Over Yet
U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen told the media this morning that BP's "top kill" effort that started yesterday (after many delays) has "stabilised the wellhead" and that pressure coming from the well is now "very low", but further efforts will be required to reduce the pressure to zero and seal the well with cement.
Image of the oil leak from yesterday. Image: BP

Admiral Allen added that one of the ships that was injecting drilling mud into the well has run out of it and that a second ship is coming. Engineers are also injecting debris into the blowout preventer to help plug the well.

BP isn't saying too much on the top kill so far. All they're saying is that it's "moving the way we want it to," in the words of BP Managing Director Robert Dudley. Things could still go wrong, so it's probably a wise decision not to announce anything yet.


An image made from video released Wednesday evening shows equipment being used to try to plug a gushing oil well 1,500 metres below the water's surface in the Gulf of Mexico. Image: BP

A new estimate of how many barrels of oil were leaking per day is coming:

Allen also said that later today, an interagency team will release a revised estimate of how much oil was flowing from the well into the Gulf before the "top kill" effort began. The Coast Guard has estimated the flow at 5,000 barrels a day, but independent estimates suggest that it was much higher – perhaps tens of thousands of barrels a day. (source)

Update: NYT: "A panel of experts said Thursday that the well has been gushing 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil a day, far more than the company's previous estimate of 5,000 barrels a day." It's pretty close to the SkyTruth estimate, though not as high as the worse case estimate of 70,000 barrels/day.

Hard Question for BP
What I'm wondering is why didn't they do a top kill weeks ago? Were they trying to avoid permanently sealing the well? The top hat and containment domes had the benefit of being temporary structures that would allow siphoning the oil, maybe that's why they tried them first... Was BP more worried about stopping the environmental disaster, or saving money?


Image of the oil leak from a few days ago, before the 'top kill'. Image: BP

We're waiting for more details on the top kill (hoping it will succeed), and we'll update this post as soon as we know more.

What is a 'Top Kill' Exactly?
The BBC has a good animation here that explains what the top kill is, how it's supposed to work, and what it looks like. It's a good visual explanation.

Via LA Times, BBC
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Tags: Oil Spill