Gulf disaster well 'is effectively dead'

A cement plug has permanently killed BP's runaway well nearly 2.5 miles below the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico, five agonising months after an explosion sank a drilling rig and led to the worst offshore oil spill in US history.

Retired Coastguard Admiral Thad Allen, the US government's point man on the disaster, said yesterday that BP's well "is effectively dead", and posed no further threat to the Gulf. He said a pressure test to ensure the cement plug would hold was completed at 5.54am local time.

The gusher was contained in mid-July after a temporary cap was successfully fitted on top of the well. Mud and cement were later pushed down through the well, allowing the cap to be removed. But the well could not be declared dead until a relief well was drilled so that the ruptured well could be sealed from the bottom, ensuring it never causes a problem again. The relief well intersected the blown-out well on Thursday, and crews started pumping in the cement on Friday.

The blast on 20April killed 11 workers, and spewed 206 million gallons of oil. The disaster caused an environmental and economic nightmare for people who live, work and play along hundreds of miles of Gulf shoreline from Florida to Texas. It also spurred civil and criminal investigations, cost gaffe-prone BP chief Tony Hayward his job, and brought increased governmental scrutiny of the oil and gas industry.