The US government’s incident commander for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill said yesterday that BP’s blown-out well is expected to be permanently sealed and declared dead by Sunday, nearly five months after the rig explosion that triggered the disaster.
National Incident Commander Thad Allen said a relief well was expected to intersect with the blown-out well within 24 hours.
Mud and cement would then be pumped in, which was expected to seal the blown-out well within four days.
“We are within a 96-hour window of killing the well,” Mr Allen said.
The Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20 killed 11 workers and led to 206 million gallons of oil spewing from the undersea well.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco said monitoring continued of oil that remained in the gulf.
She stood by earlier government estimates that 50% of the oil that spilled is gone from the water system.
Scientists said earlier this week that they had found thick patches of oil coating the sea floor, raising questions about government conclusions that much of the oil from the spill was gone. Testing is under way this week for chemical fingerprints that would conclusively link that oil to the BP spill.
Gulf shrimp fishermen are currently catching just 20% of their normal production for this time of year because demand is down sharply due to the huge spill and because supply is not where it should be – in part due to the fact that some shrimpers are wary of taking on the expense of fishing if they cannot sell their catch, according to Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board.
Mr Allen also said he plans to step down as incident commander on October 1, the same day BP instals American Bob Dudley as its new chief executive to replace Tony Hayward.
Mr Allen will be replaced by Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft. The move is not a surprise. Mr Allen had said previously that he would move out of his current role by late September or early October.
Mr Allen said the timing of the transition was not connected to BP’s leadership change.
“I worked well with Tony Hayward and I work well with Bob Dudley. I like to think I work well with anybody.”