BP seeks to end oil spill catastrophe

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The Independent US

Battered BP today hopes to launch an operation to permanently plug its Gulf of Mexico oil well and bring to an end the worst spill in US history.

Engineers at the group plan to begin a so-called "static kill" operation that will see a stream of mud and cement pumped into the well.

The mile-deep underground reservoir is currently temporarily sealed after a containment cap was placed over the well two weeks ago - marking the first time BP stopped oil gushing into the Gulf since the leak erupted on April 20 when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank, killing 11 workers.

Its static kill plans have been designed to enable the well to be fully sealed, providing the clearest path yet for the crews drilling the relief well to ensure oil can never again erupt from the deep-sea well.

As much as 184 million gallons have spewed into the Gulf since the disaster struck.

But there is still uncertainty surrounding its latest efforts.

When it begins, crews will pump heavy mud through lines installed last month straight down the throat of the well.

If the mud forces the oil back into the underground reservoir and scientists are confident the pressure remains stable, then engineers can pump in fresh cement to seal it.

Officials may then begin the process of choking the underground reservoir feeding the well by pumping mud and then cement down an 18,000ft relief well.

BP officials have said they believe the process is the only way to plug the well for good, by sealing the source of the oil, not just its route to the sea.

The group has faced fierce criticism in the US over its handling of the affair and last week confirmed the departure of under-fire boss Tony Hayward in October, to be replaced by American chief Bob Dudley.

It also revealed a 32.2 billion US dollar (£20.8 billion) blow from the spill in second quarter figures and is now threatened with a drilling ban in the Gulf after US politicians passed a bill proposing to freeze the firm out of new drilling leases for seven years.