BP sees ‘some success’ with top kill method as of Friday, May 28, 2010

BP has measured “some success” in the Gulf of Mexico with a risky procedure known as “top kill,” which has never been tried before a mile under the ocean’s surface, the company’s top executive said Friday.

The oil flow stopped when heavy drilling mud was being pumped into the well at high pressure, but it was too early to tell whether the operation will be able to permanently keep oil from gushing out, said Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive officer. The oil giant plans to resume pumping mud later Friday.

“Clearly, while we’re pumping mud there is no oil and gas coming into the sea,” Hayward said. A live video feed from the ocean floor showed a thick brown stream gushing into the water. That material was almost all nontoxic, water-based mud — not oil — he said.

Hayward, who had previously said the environmental impact on Gulf of Mexico would be modest, upgraded his assessment Friday to an “environmental catastrophe.”

Also Friday, engineers in the Gulf tried the “junk shot” method in an attempt to stop the massive oil leak in the Gulf, Hayward said.

The procedure involved shooting debris such as shredded rubber tires, golf balls and similar objects into the blowout preventer in an attempt to clog it and stop the leak. The goal of the junk shot is to force-feed the preventer, the device that failed when the disaster unfolded, until it becomes so plugged that the oil stops flowing or slows to a relative trickle.

The company plans to resume its “top kill” method, later Friday, he said.

President Obama is scheduled to visit Louisiana on Friday for the second time since an oil rig explosion sent a historic amount of oil gushing into the Gulf.

Obama’s visit comes as his administration has been criticized for its response to the massive underwater gusher that is now estimated to be twice the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster.

“I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down,” Obama said Thursday at a White House news conference. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen right away or the way I’d like it to happen. That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to make mistakes.”

The president even said his 11-year-old daughter, Malia, weighed in on the issue on Thursday.

“You know, when I woke up this morning and I’m shaving, and Malia knocks on my bathroom door and she peeks in her head and she says, ‘Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?'” he said.

// “This whole operation is very, very dynamic,” said Doug Suttles, the company’s chief operating officer “When we did the initial pumping [Wednesday], we clearly impacted the flow of the well. We then stopped to monitor the well. Based on that we restarted again. We didn’t think we were making enough progress after we restarted, so we stopped again.”

The light-brown material that was seen spilling out of the well throughout Thursday was the previously pumped fluid from the top kill procedure mixed with oil, he said.

Courtesy of CNN ®

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