Top Kill Two Step

From Business Week on May 24th:

BP Plc’s efforts to plug a leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well by pumping heavy drilling fluids into it have a 60 percent to 70 percent chance of success, said Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward.

The “top kill” process is expected to start the morning of May 26 with results known that day, Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for exploration and production, said today in a conference call.

From an AP article yesterday, May 28th:

[BP] CEO Tony Hayward said on the CBS “Early Show” that his confidence level in the well-plugging bid remains at about 60 to 70 percent.

BP PLC insisted the top kill was progressing as planned, though the company acknowledged drilling mud was escaping from the broken pipe along with the leaking crude.

“The fact that we had a bunch of mud going up the riser isn’t ideal but it’s not necessarily indicative of a problem,” spokesman Tom Mueller said.

Early Thursday, officials said the process was going well, but later in the day they announced pumping had been suspended 16 hours earlier.

It was going so well they stopped doing it! Now we see today’s news. It’s not good:

The technician working on the [top kill] project said Saturday pumping had again been halted and a review of the data so far was under way. “Right now, I would not be optimistic,” [said] the technician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the effort. But he added, that if another attempt at the junk shot were to succeed, “that would turn things around.”

BP said Saturday it would not comment on the technician’s assertions. Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer, said at a news conference in Fourchon Beach, La. that it was too soon to tell whether the procedure was working. He said it was a process of stopping and starting and reevaluating.

“We’re going to keep at this until we see if it will work or not work,” he said. “If we believe it will work we should stay with it as long as it takes,” he said. “If we think it won’t we will go on to the next.”

So we were supposed to know results on the 26th and there was a 60-70% chance of success. Then on the 28th there weren’t really results but everything was “progressing as planned” (except that they  suspended pumping without telling anyone). Now technicians are leaking pessimistic thoughts to the New York Times and BP won’t comment and there still aren’t results.

Translation: top kill is failing.

Our fleeting glimpse of hope that we could shut the leak has all but evaporated. And relief wells won’t be ready until August.

On top of all of this, new reports show that BP knew there were problems with the rig’s safety almost a year ago, despite telling Congress otherwise. Someone needs to go to jail.

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