BP engineers have begun pumping heavy drilling mud into the Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico in the latest bid to seal off the leak which has created an environmental disaster along the US coast.
The oil giant is hopeful that the measures will finally cap the leaking well which exploded on 20 April. The incident has brought into doubt the future of deep water drilling, with the US enforcing a temporary ban on the technique.
Crews in the Gulf of Mexico began the “static kill” procedure at around 9pm British time on Tuesday, the oil giant said.
It involves pumping the heavy drilling fluid, known as mud, and eventually crews hope, cement from ships to the well bore a mile below to block the source of the oil and encourage it to flow back into its source rock..
But the US government and oil executives will not declare victory until crews also pour mud and cement down an 5,486m relief well later this month to help choke the vast undersea reservoir that feeds the wrecked Deepwater Horizon well - the only way, they say, to make certain oil never escapes again.
Meanwhile, Michael Bromwich, who as director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is America’s top drilling regulator, said the Obama administration hoped to lift a freeze on deep-water drilling before it is due to expire on 30 November.
Tests for the static kill started a couple of hours earlier as BP probed the broken well bore with an oil-like liquid to determine whether there were any obstructions in the well and to assess the pressure of the bore and the pump rates it could withstand.
The test “went exactly as we could have expected” but it’s too early to tell whether the static kill is successful, said BP senior vice president Kent Wells.