It took 3 months - but BP finally managed to get a megaton cap on the leak (app. 100-200 million gallons of oil "spilled")
BP says it plans to keep gulf oil well cap closed
In a press conference Sunday morning, a BP executive said that a mechanical "cap" used to shut off the geyser still seems to be holding. As a result, he said, the company now plans to keep it closed permanently -- or at least for a few more weeks, until a "relief well" can plug the leak near its underground source.
"We're not seeing any problems, at this point, any issues with the shut-in," said Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, referring to the closure of the well. Because of that, Suttles said, "we'll continue to leave the well shut in."
Suttles' announcement seemed to alter the strategy that Coast Guard Admiral Thad W. Allen (ret.), the federal government's point man in the disaster, had described on Saturday. Allen had extended a two-day "integrity test" on the well until Sunday. But, Allen said, when the test was eventually done, it would likely be re-opened and connected to pipes that would siphon the leak up toward ships on the surface.
But on Sunday, Suttles said that the process of fitting the well with those pipes would have allowed oil to flow into the gulf for perhaps three days. In effect, he said, the "test" of the closed cap would continue indefinitely.
"No one wants to see oil flowing back into the sea, and to initiate containment would require that to occur," he said. "Unfortunately, we would first have to open the flow back up into the Gulf of Mexico."
Hooking the well up to those pipes would have provided a key statistic: since all the well's oil would have been gathered, there would finally be a concrete measurement of how much oil was leaking.
This "flow rate," which has only been guessed at so far, will be a key figure in determining BP's liability for the spill.
Suttles' announcement came on the fourth day after remote-controlled submarines closed the last valves on a "three-ram capping stack" that had been fitted atop the well's leaking pipe.
Since then, company officials and the U.S. government had been on alert for leaks, taking seismic readings from the under-sea rock, and using scanning the sea-floor for bubbling gas or oil. They had also been studying readings of the massive pressures inside the pipe itself: if they rose, it would mean the reservoir had been successfully bottled up...
Officially, Suttles said the company will now continue the "integrity test" it has been performing since Thursday. But, if no problems appear, he said that this "testing" could last until the first "relief well" breaks through the runaway well's pipe, and plugs it up permanently with cement...
He said the closest relief well was now more than 17,000 feet below the sea floor: just 100 feet vertically, and only four feet laterally, from the point it needs to reach. But the next phase is slow, Suttles said, since engineers need to be certain their drill is on course toward its tiny target. They are aiming at a steel casing slightly less than 10 inches wide, with a seven-inch pipe inside.
That relief well could hit its target by the end of this month, Suttles said, though the process of "killing" the well might last until mid-August.
Some have trouble believing BP stopped oil leak
[AP] Many Gulf Coast residents don't believe it. Some accuse BP of making it up. And even those convinced that the oil leak has finally been stopped are tempered in their relief, aware that their environmental nightmare is far from over.
"It's a beautiful thing that it's shut off," trumpeter Shamarr Allen said as he stood on the sidewalk in the Musicians' Village in New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward. "But there's still a lot of years of cleaning. There's going to be a lot of no fishing still. It's only the beginning of a long road that we have to travel. It's only the first step."
Reaction to the news that BP PLC had cut off the flow from the blown well nearly three months after an oil-rig explosion was marked with deep distrust of the oil giant. Gulf Coast residents have suffered from months of false starts and dashed hopes, failed "top kills" and abortive "junk shots," containment domes and "top hats," as they watched the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history foul their shores and eat into their livelihoods.
"It's a (expletive) lie," shouted Stephon LaFrance, one of several oil-stained oystermen standing around Delta Marina in marshy Plaquemines Parish. "I don't believe they stopped that leak. BP's trying to make their self look good."
Sitting on a boat, his cousin, Louie Randy Barthelemy, looked up and said: "BP's trying to manipulate the media."
"It doesn't mean anything," Craig St. Amant said as he tried to sell tours to passers-by on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. "They tell you what they want you to hear. I don't think they're being truthful in saying what they're saying."
Even those who believed what they were seeing on the live video feeds from the school of submersibles surrounding the damaged well head were having a hard time getting excited about this milestone.
At a dock in Hopedale, La., Roy Campo's crew was unloading and boxing blue crabs — their first in about a week because of closures. When they heard the news, the most the men could muster was a nod.
"The oil's still out there, so it'll be a while," said Campo, 50, of St. Bernard.
"Let's wait to see what an outside source has to say about the leak," a man named Rick Cortez posted on the Facebook page called "The 1,000,000 people who wonder why BP's still in charge of the oil spill." "BP (equals) ZERO credibility!!"
Some of the doubts that the leak has really been stopped appear to have sprung from glitches in the live feed from the Gulf floor. Some people complained that the video went out just as the oil stopped flowing, but an Associated Press reporter in Houston was able to view live footage of the shutoff the moment it happened Thursday — 2:25 p.m. CT.
For several days surrounding the cap operation, the 15 undersea camera feeds available through a link on BP's website have worked intermittently, at best. Sometimes, the feeds were hazy or hard to see. Other times, they were blank altogether.
Buras bartender Amy Hooks stopped watching the feeds a long time ago.
"I used to watch it every day, all day," the 32-year-old said. "I'm tired of getting my hopes shot down. It really hurts. It hurts to see all the local people not being able to do what they love to do."