BP Claims Success with "Top Kill" of Oil Leak

28 May 2010

This video released by BP shows drilling mud escaping from the broken pipe on the gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico

BP has resumed its attempt to fix the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico using a risky "Top Kill" method, which pumps thick mud into the borehole to try to clog up the long drilling hole and stop the leak. The company has just claimed that this has been successful.

Update: 31.5.10: It is clear now that this attempt has failed.  BP is now suggesting that it will try again in a few days.  The oil slick continues to worsen and its environmental effects spread: it is now being called the worst environmental disaster in history.

A BP Press release from yesterday stated, "If the well were successfully 'killed', it is expected that cementing operations would then follow. The top kill procedure has never before been attempted at these depths and its ultimate success is uncertain." The company is also drilling two other relief wells to siphon off some of the oil.

Almost 1,300 vessels are involved in the response effort, including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels. Operations to skim oil from the surface of the water have now recovered, in total, some 274,000 barrels (11.5 million gallons) of oily liquid. BP admits that the cost so far amounts to about £640 million.

A technical team assembled by the Obama administration estimated that oil is spilling at a rate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day, a far greater rate than the rate of 5,000 barrels per day given by BP. Even at the lowest estimate – 18 million gallons - the Gulf spill has far surpassed the size of the previous largest US oil spill, the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, in which a tanker ran aground in Alaska, spilling nearly 11 million gallons, and at the highest estimate, it might be three times as much.

Further revelations came from oil industry insider, Matt Simmons,adviser to the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, and is a member of the National Petroleum Council and the Council on Foreign Relations. Simmon is chairman and CEO of Simmons & Company International, an investment bank catering to oil companies. He told MSNBC TV host Dylan Ratigan that "there's another leak, much bigger, 5 to 6 miles away" from the leaking riser and blowout preventer which we've all been watching on the underwater cameras. He thought that the only reason that the oil spill could have become so large - it would cover all of London and a considerable portion of South East England - is that there was another breach caused by the undersea disaster.

Size of the oil spill

Size of the Oil spill compared London and the South East

This giant environmental catastrophe shows clearly where our dependence on polluting fossil fues takes us. We should be moving to clean, renewable power, reducing our energy consumption with electric vehicles, and retrofitting houses with better insulation, as well as ensuring new-builds are carbon netural, and reforesting wherever possible to increase the ability of our biosphere to capture the carbon we are emitting.


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