US Govt: BP May Accelerate Plan To Permanently Kill Well

The schedule of a final operation to kill the Deepwater Horizon well could be accelerated as BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) moves forward with a new procedure to ensure oil doesn't again leak from the well, the head of the federal response effort said Friday.

The oil giant is preparing the well for the so-called bottom kill operation, which involves flooding a gap between the well casing and the surrounding rock formation with mud and cement via a relief well that's nearly complete. Before that can be accomplished, federal officials want to ensure a cement seal currently in the well won't be damaged by any pressure build-ups.

No oil has leaked from the well since in July when a sealing cap was place on top of it, about three months after the Deepwater Horizon rig burned and sank, unleashing the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. BP plugged the well with cement in early August.

Engineers had considered a new injection of cement to reinforce the plug, but now will attempt to use a well mechanism that's already in place to provide a back-up to the cement seal, said retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen in a teleconference.

"We might be able to accelerate going and finishing the relief well," he said.

Allen is waiting for a new, accelerated timeline from BP. The final move to kill the well had been pushed out to between Sept. 18 and Sept. 28 earlier this week.