BP Well Kill Expected This Week

HOUSTON, Texas, August 9, 2010 (ENS) – The final kill of BP’s damaged oil well in the Gulf of Mexico could happen later this week, National Incident Commander retired Admiral Thad Allen said today.

The cement plug BP poured down the well last week for the “static kill” is “holding,” said Allen, and within days drilling equipment that has been working its way towards the blown-out well since May will be in position to “try and cement it in from the bottom.”

The leaking well was capped July 15, so no new oil has entered the gulf since then, but permanently sealing the well, located nearly a mile beneath the surface, is a more challenging exercise.

The drilling ship Development Driller III has now drilled down to 17,909 feet below the seafloor to intercept the well, which lies at a depth of about 18,000 feet.

During the static kill cementing procedure, remotely operated sub operations are on standby and are monitored in the BP Headquarters in Houston. August 5, 2010. (Photo courtesy BP)

Now that it is so close, the drilling is being done in 30 foot increments, and after each increment the drilling equipment is withdrawn to allow sensors to accurately locate the damaged wellhead.

When the equipment is in place, cement will be pumped from the bottom into the ruptured well, sealing it permanently.

Admiral Allen said the Unified Command is watching a weather disturbance east of Florida that could impact the drilling site in the next three to four days. He said weather forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration thought there is “a 10 percent chance it could impact us.”

Allen said there is “a sense of urgency,” as “we are very close” to being able to kill the well once and for all.

Once that is accomplished, the response teams will continue their cleanup of tarballs on beaches, particularly in Louisiana near the Chandaleur Islands, in Barataria Bay and around to Terrebonne to the west.

An estimated 4.9 million barrels spilled from the damaged well in the 87 days from the beginning of the disaster until the leak was capped, the federal government scientific team said last week. Of that total amount, BP captured about 800,000 barrels and brought them to the surface to be flared off or taken to shore for processing.

The original cause of the disastrous oil spill, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, will likely be allowed to remain on the seafloor. No plans have been announced to salvage it, although the failed blowout preventer and the capping stack used to shut off the oil flow will be recovered once the well is sealed, Allen said.

BP announced today that it has established a trust and made a $3 billion initial deposit of the previously-announced $20 billion escrow account to pay legitimate claims arising from the Deepwater Horizon incident and the resulting oil and gas spill.

“The purpose of the escrow account was to assure those adversely affected by the spill that we indeed intend to stand behind our commitment to them and to the American taxpayers,” said Bob Dudley, CEO of BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. “Establishing this trust and making the initial deposit ahead of schedule further demonstrates our commitment to making it right in the Gulf Coast.”

Two individual trustees have been named to the newly-established trust that will administer the account: the Honorable John S. Martin, a former U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York, and Kent Syverud, dean of the Washington University School of Law.

Citigroup will serve as corporate trustee and paying agent for the account. Arrangements have been made for checks drawn on the fund to be cashed free of charge at any of the 160 Whitney National Bank branches across the Gulf Coast region.

On June 16, following consultations with the U. S. Government, BP announced that it would transition the claims process required under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to an independent claims facility managed by Kenneth Feinberg and create a $20 billion escrow account to satisfy claims resolved by that facility and certain other claims, including natural resource damages and state and local response costs.

BP announced at the time that the first deposit of $3 billion to the account would occur by the end of the third quarter. BP has decided to make this deposit early to demonstrate its commitment to meet its pledge to restore both the livelihoods of those affected by the oil spill and the environment.

An additional $2 billion deposit will be made in the fourth quarter of 2010. Thereafter, $1.25 billion will be deposited per quarter until a total of $20 billion has been deposited.

To date, BP’s response to the disaster has cost $6.1 billion, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling and cementing the broken well.

BP said Thursday that it has paid $303 million in claim payments to more than 40,000 individuals and businesses impacted by the oil spill.

BP will continue to pay claims until the Gulf Coast Claims Facility takes over claims processing for businesses and individuals later this month.

“We’re not perfect,” said BP claims spokesman Darryl Willis, “but we continue to pay claimants across the Gulf Coast. Our commitment to individuals and businesses is that we will not let the transition to the GCCF interrupt the flow of payments. For those concerned about their claim, please continue to communicate with us. We are working hard to resolve claims.”

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