BP Says Stopgap Plan to Cap Well May Take Weeks; Weather Slows Effort to Limit Slick

5/1/10 Wall Street Journal

Engineers prepared to try containing the gushing Gulf of Mexico oil well with giant underwater boxes and siphons, as seaside towns braced for landfall of a giant slick.

BP PLC, the oil giant that leased the rig whose sinking last week caused the disaster, has failed in efforts using unmanned submarines to activate a shutoff device on the undersea well.

A stopgap solution BP is planning—covering the well with containers and pumping the oil out—will take weeks to roll out and is untested at the one-mile depth of this well, however. BP said it would begin working this weekend on a permanent solution to the crisis, drilling a new hole to cut off the damaged well, but industry scientists said that could take months.

Industry scientists say the permanent solution is to close the entire well. To do that, they must drill another hole—through 13,000 feet of rock a mile under the ocean's floor—that will intercept the leaking well. They can then pump in cement to try to plug the leaks.

This operation will take up to three months and is highly complex; the drills must precisely hit the leaking well—which is just seven inches wide. When a well off the coast of Australia blew out last year, it took five attempts over 10 weeks to hit the old well and shut it down.
 

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