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BP Prepping Another Option In Case Oil Spill Top Kill Fails

May 25, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

BP will attempt a “top kill” as early as tomorrow to stop the gushing Deepwater Horizon oil well beneath the Gulf of Mexico. But just in case that plan doesn’t work, the company is prepping another to contain the devastating spill.

A top kill involves using heavy mud, drilling fluids and cement to plug up the well. The procedure has never been attempted in such deep water before, and no one knows if it will work. Making the rounds of morning news shows yesterday, Doug Suttles, chief operating officer at BP PLC, admitted as much, putting the odds of the top kill working at six or seven on a scale of ten.

According to a Reuters report, BP now says it had plans to remove a damaged part from the ruptured well and put in place a tube which would capture most of the oil and gas flowing into the sea, calling it the LMRP cap containment option. The option will be ready at the end of the month.

Oil has been spewing into the Gulf of Mexico since April 20, when an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 crew. The blast caused a catastrophic fire, and the rig sunk days later. Since then, all of BP’s attempts to cap the well have failed.

At least 6 million gallons of crude have spilled into the gulf since the explosion. Thick oil has made its way at least 12 miles into Louisiana’s fragile wetlands. The oil spill has fouled at least 70 miles of the state’s coast.

Frustration with BP has grown as it continues to struggle to stop the spill. Some have also questioned the federal government’s apparent decision to let BP head up and control cleanup and containment efforts. Over the weekend, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar indicated that the government might take over the efforts if BP didn’t produce results soon.

But at a White House briefing yesterday, Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen, who is heading the federal response to the spill, appeared to reject such a move: “To push BP out of the way, it would raise the question, to replace them with what?” He characterized Salazar’s comments as “more of a metaphor.”

According to the Associated Press, Allen said federal law dictated that BP had to operate the cleanup, with the government overseeing its efforts. Allen said the government held veto power and had adopted an “inquisitorial” stand toward the company’s ideas.

Allen also maintained that the government has the authority to tell BP what to do, and such orders carry the force of law, the Associated Press said.


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