BP 100 Feet Away from Permanently Sealing Blown-Out Well

Photo: DVIDSHUB, Flickr/CC BY

Read the AP report on the final stages of the operation that should finally permanently seal the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico, and tell me it doesn't sound like the plot from a Jules Verne novel: "One man guides a drill more than two miles beneath the sea floor and three miles from the surface, trying to hit a target less than half the size of a dartboard. The drill is about as wide as a grapefruit. And now the target, BP's blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, lies less than 100 feet away." Intrigued? So am I.That passage underscores the vast complexity and technological dexterity required of drilling at such depths -- and once again emphasizes how difficult and dangerous the practice is.

If that target is successfully hit, then the well that has spewed 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico may be considered permanently and finally sealed -- and the nightmare that has been the BP spill will reach an all-important milestone. That is, the well, which was finally blocked off last week with a procedure called the 'static kill' could be deemed totally shut.

Until the current procedure -- termed the 'bottom kill' by BP and the Coast Guard -- is successfully completed, the US government and the oil giant won't declare the well 100% sealed (perhaps they've learned their lesson by now). Here's more knuckle-whitening suspense from the AP:

The relief well, the ultimate solution to stopping oil from gushing into the Gulf as it has since April, could reach the crippled oil well by Friday. If it hits, engineers will perform a "bottom kill" by pouring in mud and cement to permanently seal the blown-out well that's spewed an estimated 207 million gallons.

A "static kill" last week pushed mud and cement into the top of the crippled well, leaving very little chance oil could leak into the Gulf again, said retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man overseeing the cleanup operation. Neither he nor BP officials have been willing to declare victory yet -- but Allen said that day isn't far off.

BP began drilling the relief well not long after the initial accident, and drilling has been ongoing for months. Engineers are working on the finishing the relief well as I type this, and the well could be sealed once and for all before long. Keep those fingers crossed.

More on the BP Gulf Spill
Should We Rename the BP Gulf Oil Spill?
BP Gulf Spill Predicted by a 1970s Board Game?
BP Gulf Oil Spill Officially the Worst in US History

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