“Top Kill” Fails, BP Moves On To Plan C
Late yesterday, the officials in charge of trying to stop the Gulf Oil Spill announced that their latest efforts had ended in failure:
NEW ORLEANS — In another serious setback in the effort to stem the flow of oil gushing from a well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico, BP engineers said Saturday that the “top kill” technique had failed and, after consultation with government officials, they had decided to move on to another strategy.
Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer for exploration and production, said at a news conference that the engineers would try once again to solve the problem with a containment cap and that it could take four to seven days for the device to be in place.
“After three full days of attempting top kill, we now believe it is time to move on to the next of our options,” Mr. Suttles said.
The abandonment of the top kill technique, the most ambitious effort yet to plug the well, was the latest in a series of failures. First, BP failed in efforts to repair a blowout preventer with submarine robots. Then its initial efforts to cap the well with a containment dome failed when it became clogged with a frothy mix of frigid water and gas. Efforts to use a hose to gather escaping oil have managed to catch only a fraction of the spill.
BP has started work on two relief wells, but officials have said that they will not be completed until August — further contributing to what is already the worst oil spill in United States history.
The latest failure will undoubtedly put more pressure — both politically and from the public — on the Obama administration to take some sort of action, perhaps taking control of the repair effort completely from BP.
President Obama, who is spending the Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, issued a statement Saturday evening on the decision to abandon the top kill.
“While we initially received optimistic reports about the procedure, it is now clear that it has not worked,” Mr. Obama said.
He said that Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry of the Coast Guard had “directed BP to launch a new procedure whereby the riser pipe will be cut and a containment structure fitted over the leak.”
“This approach is not without risk and has never been attempted before at this depth,” Mr. Obama said. “That is why it was not activated until other methods had been exhausted.”
The president continued, “We will continue to pursue any and all responsible means of stopping this leak until the completion of the two relief wells currently being drilled.”
Other reports expanded on the President’s comments:
CHICAGO — President Barack Obama said Saturday that the failure of BP’s latest effort to stop the damaging flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico is “as enraging as it is heartbreaking.”
When I heard that part of the statement last night, it struck me as odd, and a little out of place. It sounds like the White House is trying to convey a “tough guy” attitude in response to increasing public perception that they’ve been too passive in response to the oil spill, but to describe yourself as enraged over what was essentially an engineering failure under incredibly difficult conditions strikes me as more than a little odd.
In any event, the failure of Top Kill is certainly a disappointment and most likely a sign that we’re looking at a far worse environmental disaster than anyone ever anticipated.