BP has stepped up its efforts to block the oil spilling from its leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico by carrying out a ‘junk shot’.
The engineers fired debris, including shredded tyres, golf balls and pieces of rope, into the broken valves on the sea bed in a bid to
The ‘junk shot’, which was carried out hours ahead of a visit to the area by President Barack Obama, is the latest attempt to stop the leak after earlier efforts to plug the well proved ineffective.
Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, told ABC TV’s Good Morning America programme that the top kill was going “pretty well according to plan”, but the results might not be known for another 48 hours.
He admitted that the oil spill, which has become the worst in the country’s history – exceeding the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989 – was “clearly an environmental catastrophe”.
The company began its “top kill” operation at 1pm local time on Wednesday, pumping heavy drilling fluid, known as “mud” into the blow-out preventer (BOP), the stack of valves on the ocean floor that was intended to prevent escapes of oil and gas.
The hope was that the mud would flow into the hole and push back the oil and gas pouring from the reservoir 13,000 feet below the sea bed.
BP executives likened the attempt to “arm wrestling” between two opposing forces.
However, the procedure seemed to have been ineffective, and was suspended for much of Thursday, after large volumes of mud escaped from the broken blow-out preventer.
Some oil industry engineers compared the operation to trying to stop a flowing tap using another tap flowing the other way: the most likely outcome being a spray in all directions.
The junkshot uses material such as golf balls, shredded tyres and pieces of rope, which were fired into the BOP in an attempt to clog it up and stop the mud escaping, so more of it will flow down the well.
Mr Hayward has come under increasing pressure in the US. On Thursday Barack Obama, who is due to visit the Gulf site later on Friday, told a rare televised press conference that BP was now operating under the administration’s orders.
“I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure this thing is shut down,” the president told reporters. “Make no mistake: BP is operating at our direction. Every decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance,” he said.
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