BP Ready to Start 1st Phase of Static Kill

NEW ORLEANS (Dow Jones Newswires), Aug. 2, 2010

BP is poised to start the latest attempt to kill a damaged deepwater well in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico by flooding it with thousands of barrels of drilling mud, an executive said Monday.

The initial phase of the attempt -- called "static kill" by the company -- will begin late Monday, when engineers test whether they can push crude down the well and into the reservoir by injecting base oil at low rates. If this test succeeds, BP could begin injecting heavy drilling mud into the reservoir Tuesday, BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said in a teleconference with reporters.

The flooding -- which requires 2,000 barrels of drilling mud -- could take all of Tuesday and go into Wednesday, Wells said. After that's done, "we'll have hydrostatically controlled the well, or killed the well," he said.

Successfully completing this operation would permanently stop one of the worst environmental disasters in the Gulf Coast region. The gusher that began when Transocean's Deepwater Horizon rig blew up and sank last April spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf, a spill much larger than the Exxon Valdez in 1989. The rig was drilling the well for BP.

Optimism that the spill can be controlled has increased since BP capped the well with a new containment system more than two weeks ago, and shut in the flow of oil. Crude on the surface of the Gulf is getting harder to find, but it's still affecting some onshore areas, including Louisiana's environmentally fragile marshes.

Wells said that if the static kill operation succeeds, responders will have to decide whether to cement the well from the top, through the same lines used to pump the drilling mud, or from the bottom, through a relief well that's scheduled to intercept the it by mid-August.

Wells added that BP has finished inserting pipe into the relief well. Now it only has to drill a short distance to intersect the damaged well.

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