'Top Kill' Fails, Oil Company to Try Another Cap

Cynthia Dermody
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oil rig
Flickr photo by kenhodge13
BP officials say the "top kill" operation, a three-day effort where large flows of mud were injected near a broken oil blowout pipe in hopes of countering the flow, have failed. Meanwhile, 12,000-19,000 barrels of oil a day continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico in the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Now, the oil company is moving on to plan D? Or is it Plan E? I've lost track. Some of the failed attempts, according to the New York Times:

1. Repair of the broken blowout preventer with marine robots.

2. Capping the well with a containment dome, which failed when it became clogged with a frothy mix of frigid water and gas.

3. Using a hose to catch escaping oil (this has only managed to capture a fraction of it).

The company says the ultimate solution to stopping the leak is also the one that takes the longest -- the construction of two relief wells to contain the oil, but they won't be ready till August.

So now, the company is holding out it's latest hope on another cap. In this fix, the broken pipe will be severed completely and a dome fitted over it, directing much of the oil to storage vessels above the water. But this procedure has never been attempted at these depths, so there still is a certain amount of risk involved.

It's also impossible to seal the cap to the pipe completely, so some oil is bound to leak out.

President Obama, who is spending Memorial Day in Chicago, said in the Los Angeles Times, "It is also important to note that while we were hopeful that the top kill would succeed, we were also mindful that there was a significant chance it would not. And 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."

There has been suggestions that the U.S. should seize total control of the situation from the British oil company, but Obama made not hint to that effect this weekend.

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