BP Plc returned to work on permanently plugging the source of the largest oil spill in U.S. history after a storm threat eliminated an opportunity to seal the Gulf of Mexico gusher more securely by the end of July.
The next effort, a so-called static kill that will pump mud and cement into the top of the Macondo well, will begin Aug. 2, National Incident Commander Thad Allen said today in a Washington press conference. Injections from the bottom to confirm the well is permanently closed could begin five days later, he said.
The Macondo well spilled 2.31 million to 4.1 million barrels of oil, based on government estimates. It erupted April 20 with a blast that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon rig, killing 11 crew. On July 15, BP shut the flow after installing a 40-foot (12-meter) cap atop a damaged valve assembly.
“When this spill first started, it took about four to six weeks for the oil to start impacting shore,” Allen said. “After we put the cap in place, we can expect for four to six weeks after that or even longer, depending on the weather conditions, for oil to continue to come ashore.”
BP will clean up oil from the spill whenever it’s found, Allen said. Chemical analysis can determine whether crude found underneath a beach months from now came from the well, he said.
Dispersants Not Used
The amount of skimmable oil is diminishing, according to U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft, the on-scene coordinator. A monitoring program for undersea oil will be set up, he said on a conference call today.
Dispersants haven’t been used for more than one week and won’t be used unless new oil is released, he said. The remaining oil is weathered to the point where it would be “inefficient and ineffective” to use them, he said.
This week, BP expects to complete the final 2,000 feet of cement casing for the relief well that will kill Macondo permanently, Allen said. The company will then begin drilling the final 200 feet of an intercept course with the damaged well, he said.
On Aug. 2, BP will start trying to fill the well with mud, followed by cement, through the blowout preventer, the stack of valves that failed the night the well exploded, Allen said. The goal will be to fill the entire well with cement, he said.
A previous effort in May failed when the gusher ejected mud and rubber scraps intended to plug it. BP expects better results now that it has stanched the flow, Allen said.
Dudley as Successor
Dudley, 54, is ready to be announced as the company’s first American chief tomorrow and to take the helm Oct. 1, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because a final decision hasn’t yet been made.
The decision was reached in discussions with board members about how best to take BP forward and rebuild its U.S. position, the person said. The BP board meets today to “rubber stamp” the plan, the second person said.
“No final decision has been made” on management changes, the company said today in a statement. The board will meet tonight before tomorrow’s scheduled release of quarterly financial results.
BP rose 18.35 pence, or 4.6 percent, to 416.95 pence at 4:35 p.m. today in London. It was the highest closing price since June 7.