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BP to start "static kill" in Gulf

A team of engineers at battered oil giant BP is planning to launch an operation designed to end the Gulf of Mexico oil spill for good.

In a move called a “static kill”, the engineers hope to seal the oil well with a mud and cement.

Currently, the well, which lies 1.6km beneath the surface, is sealed with a containment cap that was placed over it two weeks ago.

That successful operation marked the first time BP had stopped oil pouring into the sea since the explosion of the Deepwater Hoizon rig on April 20, which killed 11 workers.

Its static kill plans have been designed to enable the well to be fully sealed, providing the clearest path yet for the crews drilling the relief well to ensure oil can never again erupt from the deep-sea well.

As much as 48.6M litres have spewed into the Gulf since the disaster struck.

But there is still uncertainty surrounding its latest efforts. When it begins, crews will pump heavy mud through lines installed last month straight down the throat of the well.

If the mud forces the oil back into the underground reservoir and scientists are confident the pressure remains stable, then engineers can pump in fresh cement to seal it.

Officials may then begin the process of choking the underground reservoir feeding the well by pumping mud and then cement down an 5.91km relief well.

BP officials have said they believe the process is the only way to plug the well for good, by sealing the source of the oil, not just its route to the sea.

The group has faced fierce criticism in the US over its handling of the affair and last week confirmed the departure of under-fire boss Tony Hayward in October, to be replaced by American chief Bob Dudley.

It also revealed a $32.2bn (£20.8bn) blow from the spill in second quarter figures and is now threatened with a drilling ban in the Gulf after US politicians passed a bill proposing to freeze the firm out of new drilling leases for seven years.

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