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BP’s Macondo Oil Well ‘Kill’ Delayed By Storm Debris

BP Plc’s next attempt to more fully seal its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico was delayed by a day as the company had to remove debris from a relief well.

The so-called static kill procedure, in which heavy mud will be pumped into the previously spilling well, may start Aug. 3 rather than Aug. 2, National Incident Commander Thad Allen told reporters on a call yesterday.

During Tropical Storm Bonnie, which entered the Gulf on July 23, BP was forced to evacuate drilling vessels from the spill site, 40 miles (64 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast. After the storm, the company had to remove the sediment that fell inside the wellbore. A drilling vessel is preparing to install casing in the relief well, the company said today in a statement on its website.

The casing is necessary to make sure the relief well is reinforced before injecting mud from the top through the blowout preventer of the damaged well. That process may reduce the time it takes to ultimately plug Macondo with the relief well. A few weeks later, mud and cement will be pumped through the relief well to permanently plug Macondo.

The placement of a permanent plug has been delayed by about two weeks until the end of August due to time lost during the storm, Daren Beaudo, a company spokesman, said in a telephone interview yesterday. Beaudo said cleaning the debris has set back the timing by an additional couple of hours.

‘No Monitoring System’

Macondo was shut with a stack of valves on July 15 after spewing oil into the Gulf for almost three months.

The Obama administration, which plans within a few days to announce a new determination of much oil was leaking, may widen the range of its estimate because of difficulties assessing the flow, said a scientist involved in the research.

“There’s just a lot of uncertainty because there was no monitoring system put in place,” said Ira Leifer, a University of California, Santa Barbara researcher and a member of the panel of scientists advising the U.S. Energy Department on the spill.

The well, which began leaking after an April 20 drilling-rig explosion that killed 11 workers, was releasing 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf, the government said on June 15. Allen said yesterday that along with a new flow estimate, the government will release data on how much oil evaporated and how much has been dispersed.

Rules Rewritten

The incident prompted the U.S. House to push through an overhaul of offshore drilling safety and environmental rules that would eliminate a $75 million cap on liability for companies responsible for spills. The bill, passed by a vote of 209-193 yesterday, also would bar London-based BP from new offshore leases.

The Senate may act on its version of oil-spill legislation next week.

BP informed the governments of Vietnam and Pakistan that it put its production assets in the countries up for sale as a part of company’s plan to dispose of $30 billion of assets to raise cash to cover costs associated with the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

In Vietnam, BP plans to sell interests in an offshore natural gas-production field, a pipeline and a power generator, said David Nicholas, a London-based company spokesman. In Pakistan, it plans to sell oil and gas production fields, including deep-water sites, which includes the largest offshore acreage given to any single explorer in the country, he said.

BP also wants to sell its German gas station unit Aral for more than 2 billion euros ($2.61 billion) to finance expenses, according to an e-mailed preview of Wirtschaftswoche, to be published Aug. 2.

BP spokeswoman Natalia Erikssen declined to comment on the Wirtschaftswoche report.

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