BP is to begin filling its blown-out Gulf of Mexico oil well with cement, following a successful operation to seal it with mud.
The company yesterday managed to pump heavy mud into the capped well as part of its ‘static kill’ operation, but were unsure at them time whether it would follow this with cement.
Government officials have stressed that pumping cement into the main well would not replace the need to complete the drilling of relief wells as part of the procedure to permanently seal the well.
National incident commander Admiral Thad Allen last night gave BP permission to cement the well and the company expects to start the operation later today.
Allen said in a statement: ‘I made it clear that implementation of this procedure shall in no way delay the completion of the relief well.’
BP engineers yesterday pumped 2,300 barrels of mud into the well at speeds of up to 15 barrels a minute, in order to clean the well casing of oil and test whether they could pump at higher speeds that would enable them to more efficiently cement the well.
BP’s senior vice president, Kent Wells, told reporters last night that the cementing operation would take ‘a number of hours, leading up to maybe outside a day’.
He added: ‘One of the things we’re going to do is pump it and then we’ll do what we call a ’hesitation squeeze’, where we actually stop for a little bit, then pump a little more.
‘What we’re trying to do is really get that cement into any cracks and crevices so we have an excellent seal, and we’ll actually pressure up on it ultimately.’