A recent news release shows why it has suddenly become urgent to do this at once:
BEN NUCKOLS, Associated Press Writer
May 31, 2010, 6:52 AM PST
ROBERT, La. With BP declaring failure in its latest attempt to plug the uncontrolled gusher feeding the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the company is turning to yet another mix of risky undersea robot maneuvers and longshot odds to keep crude from flowing into the Gulf.
Six weeks after the catastrophe began, oil giant BP PLC is still casting about for at least a temporary fix to the spewing well underneath the Gulf of Mexico that's fouling beaches, wildlife and marshland. A relief well that's currently being drilled - which is supposed to be a better long-term solution - won't be done for at least two months. That would be in the middle of the Atlantic hurricane season, which begins Tuesday.
Now, BP hopes to saw through a pipe leading out from the well and cap it with a funnel-like device using the same remotely guided undersea robots that have failed in other tries to stop the gusher.
"This scares everybody, the fact that we can't make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven't succeeded so far," BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Saturday. "Many of the things we're trying have been done on the surface before, but have never been tried at 5,000 feet."
Suttles said BP is already preparing for the next temporary fix. The company plans to cut off the damaged riser, and then try to cap it with a containment valve. The effort is expected to take between four and seven days.
He said cutting off the damaged riser isn't expected to cause the flow rate of leaking oil to increase significantly.
Experts have said that a bend in the damaged riser likely was restricting the flow of oil somewhat, so slicing it off and installing a new containment valve is risky.
"If they can't get that valve on, things will get much worse," said Philip W. Johnson, an engineering professor at the University of Alabama.
Johnson said he thinks BP can succeed with the valve, but added: "It's a scary proposition."
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