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BP to try seal oil well Tuesday

Washington, July 31, 2010

BP said it could seal its ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well by next week as the US House of Representatives voted to toughen regulation of offshore energy drilling.

Incoming BP chief executive Bob Dudley said the British energy giant would attempt a "static kill" operation on Tuesday to try to plug the blown-out deep-sea well that caused the worst offshore oil spill in US history.

This marks a slight delay. The US official overseeing the spill response, retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, had said on Thursday he hoped the operation to pump mud and cement into the well could be performed as early as this weekend.

As BP moved ahead with its plans, US government scientists said South Florida, the Florida Keys and the US East Coast likely will be spared from oil pollution from the spill despite earlier dire warnings.

The House, by a vote of 209-193, passed reforms to offshore drilling practices in response to the spill, which caused an economic and environmental disaster along the US Gulf Coast. President Barack Obama supports the bill.

Gulf Coast Democrats secured an amendment to the legislation to end Obama's moratorium on deepwater drilling for oil companies that meet new federal safety requirements. The current moratorium runs through the end of November.

By the time the full Congress completes action on the offshore drilling bill -- and it is uncertain that it will -- it could be November or later. The Senate has not yet acted on its version of the legislation.

Obama's fellow Democrats in the House rejected Republican warnings that the bill would slash US oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, a major supplier of domestic energy, and cut high-paying drilling jobs.

The "static kill" process will involve pumping drilling mud and cement into the well from the top to plug it. A relief well is intended to intersect the ruptured well deep under the seabed to allow mud and cement to be pumped from the bottom to provide a permanent fix.

No new oil has leaked since BP installed a tight-fitting containment cap atop the well on July 15 as a temporary fix.

"We want to absolutely kill this well. The static kill will be attempted on Tuesday. The relief well by the end of the month (August)," said Dudley, BP's top executive on the Gulf oil spill who will replace Tony Hayward as CEO on Oct. 1.

At a briefing on Friday, Allen said "static kill" would be delayed until Tuesday to clean out debris and sediment found in the relief well, which has bored deep into the earth and is intended to plug the leak from the bottom.

Once cleaned out, BP can finish cementing the pipe into the relief well and move forward with a static kill, Allen said.

In his first news conference on the Gulf since being named to replace the much-criticized Hayward, Dudley stressed BP's commitment to restoring the coast.

"We are scaling back the number of vessels offshore but we are not stopping cleanup operations by any means," he said. "We are not complacent about this at all."

Millions of gallons (litres) of oil have poured into the Gulf since April, when a rig exploded and sank, killing 11 workers and triggering the leak from the BP-owned well.

Officials have expressed cautious optimism the oil already spilled into the ocean is dissipating. The spill has hurt the livelihoods of fishermen and other business owners along the Gulf Coast and presented a challenge to BP and to Obama. – Reuters




Tags: BP | reforms | seal | Washington | oil spill | Dudley |

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