Oil giant BP sliced off a pipe with giant shears in the latest bid to curtail the worst oil spill in US history in the Gulf of Mexico.
However, the the cut was jagged and placing a cap over the gusher proved to be a challenge.
Video footage last night showed an inverted funnel-like cap - slightly wider than the severed pipe - being manoeuvred into place over the oil spewing from the well.
But the gushing oil made it very difficult to tell if the cap was fitting well. BP spokesman Toby Odone said he had no immediate information on whether the cap was successfully attached.
A rubber seal on the inside will attempt to keep oil from escaping, though engineers acknowledge some crude will still come out.
The placement of the cap was a positive step to contain the leak, but not a solution, said US Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen.
He added: “Even if successful, this is only a temporary and partial fix and we must continue our aggressive response operations at the source, on the surface and along the Gulf’s precious coastline.”
BP turned to the giant shears after a diamond-tipped saw became stuck in the pipe halfway through the job, yet another frustrating delay in the six-week-old spill. The cap could be set over the gusher as early as Thursday night.
If the cap can be put on successfully, BP will siphon the oil and gas to a tanker on the surface.
“It’s an important milestone, and in some sense, it’s just the beginning,” BP chief executive Tony Hayward said.
An estimated 2.3M Litre to 4.5M Litre of crude is believed to be leaking daily.