BP’s latest effort to tackle the oil slick caused by an explosion at its Deepwater Horizon rig has run into problems.
The company had planned to contain the leak by shearing off the well pipe then covering it, but a diamond-tipped saw became stuck halfway through the process.
It was released 12 hours later, and preparations are now underway to resume the operation, BP said.
If the strategy is successful, the company will fit a cap on top of the well to capture most of the escaping oil.
The latest attempt to control the leak is considered risky because slicing away a section of the 508mm riser could remove kinks in the pipe and temporarily increase the flow of oil by as much as 20%.
If the strategy fails - like every other attempt to control the problem - the best hope is a relief well, which is at least two months from completion.
“I don’t think the issue is whether or not we can make the second cut - it’s about how fine we can make it, how smooth we can make it,” said Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen, the government’s senior official in managing the crisis.
The slick itself, meanwhile, is spreading closer to the Florida Panhandle. Extra staff, boats and helicopters have been deployed to the Gulf Coast in the hope of restricting its movement. Officials plan to skim and collect the oil through use of protective booms.