In a Saturday evening press conference, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles and Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said that the “top kill” effort to stem the Gulf oil spill had failed after three days of attempts.
“We have not been able to stop the flow,” Suttles said. “We have made the decision to move on to the next option,” he said, adding that the move was made in consulation with government officials and others.
About 30,000 barrels of mud were pumped into the damaged pipe as part of the “top kill” attempt.
Suttles said a new containment technique, known as the Lower Marine Riser Package, would be the next option to contain the oil spill, which has been flowing for more than a month. He said the procedure would likely take between four and seven days to complete, but could take longer.
In the new plan, BP would use robot submarines to cut off the damaged riser from which the oil is leaking, and then try to cap it with a containment valve that would funnel escaping oil to a ship on the surface. Suttles and Landry warned that some amount of oil might continue to escape the damaged pipe, because the cap wouldn’t make a complete seal.
Suttles also said that while they were confident in the plan, they could not provide a specific estimate of its chances for success, because it has never been tried before.
Meanwhile, undersea dispserants will also continue to be used to treat oil still escaping the leak.
Parallel work on relief wells, believed to be a more permanent fix to the leak, also continues, Suttles said. That work will last until at least August.
President Obama issued a statement on the decision to end the “top kill” option late Saturday saying that while “we initially received optimistic reports about the procedure, it is now clear that it has not worked.” Several heads of government agencies plan to return to Gulf Coast in the coming week.