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BP calls on robots to plug oil leak

Under fire BP has resorted to undersea robots in an attempt to siphon off some of the 955,000l of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The oil and gas giant will use robots to insert a small tube into the broken pipe that is currently leaking thousands of litres of crude oil into the Gulf.

The tube, which will be surrounded by a stopper to prevent further leaks, will then be used to siphon the oil back up to a ship on the surface above the wellhead.

The latest effort follows a failed attempt to place a concrete box on top of the well to contain the spill, which was thwarted by ice crystals that formed under extremes of temperature and pressure below the surface.

BP is also considering the option of firing debris into the well - known as a “junk shot” - to plug the leak.

The oil giant has been forced to admit that despite the high-tech approach of using undersea robots to siphon off some of the oil, it still is unsure how effective they will be and how much oil they can prevent from leaking back into the Gulf.

Not only is BP having to solve the problem of plugging the leak, which has devastated the Louisiana coastline, it is facing fresh scrutiny from officials after a series of congressional and administrative hearings revealed details of the moments leading up to the explosion on 20 April .

A breakdown of the daily drilling report up until 3pm revealed uncertainty over a potential leak at the well and a catalogue of errors during the explosion in relation to the emergency cut-off valves, which were frantically being fitted as underground gas surged up through the well.

The log confirms that three pressure tests indicated unseen underground leakage into the well. But there is no mention of a fourth test that BP and Transocean say was conducted and that they say indicated it was safe to proceed.

In the hours leading up to the explosion, workers finished pumping cement into the exploratory well to bolster and seal it against leaks until a later production phase.

After the tests that indicated leakage, workers debated the next step and eventually decided to resume work, for reasons that remain unclear.

As the explosion occurred, workers attempted to cap the well using a set of supersized emergency cut-off valves known as a blowout preventer. However, their attempts were rendered useless by faults in the device which was leaking hydraulic fluid and missing one battery.

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