Static kill could seal BP oil leak before peak hurricane season

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BP and government officials hope the static kill and bottom kill plug the Macondo well for good before hurricane season peaks in August. photo.

The long-awaited “static kill” was scheduled to begin on BP’s blown out Macondo well Monday. The static kill, delayed a week by tropical storm Bonnie, is the first step toward plugging the leaking well for good on day 100 of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010. After the static kill — ramming tons of heavy drilling mud down the well — is complete, a “bottom kill” performed from a relief well comes next. BP and government officials are confident that one or both kills will be the beginning of the end of the worst oil spill in U.S. history before peak hurricane season.

Oil spill cap gives static kill better odds

A temporary oil spill cap finally stopped the flow in mid-July while BP forged ahead to kill the well once and for all. The New York Times reports that an earlier effort to seal the well similar to the static kill, using much of the same equipment, failed over the Memorial Day weekend. That operation, called a “top kill,” failed because the pressure of the oil and gas gushing out of the well was too much for the incoming mud. But now that the oil spill cap has stopped the flow, the BP engineers say the static kill has a much better chance at success.

Static kill paves way for bottom kill

During the static kill, heavy mud will be pumped into the choke line of the well’s original blowout preventer that failed to set the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010 in motion. The Times Picayune in New Orleans reports that about 12,000 barrels of mud, six times the amount of oil believed to be in the well bore, are on immediate standby. About 37,000 barrels of a heavier mud compound intended for the “bottom kill” is also on site. As mud is being pumped, BP crews will observe pressure inside the well. Pressure should lower at predictable rates to a “static condition” inside the well. After the static kill is complete, crews will drill the final 100 feet of the relief well to intercept the Macondo well.

Racing to beat the next hurricane

The static kill and the bottom kill are set to be complete by late August. The Associated Press reports that BP has many reasons to attempt the complicated static kill even though the relief well is almost complete. The static kill should make it easier to finish the relief well. It’s also a good way for BP to hedge its bets in case the relief well takes longer than expected to work. Perhaps the most important reason is that each day the water temperature in the Gulf increases, so does the threat of another violent storm disrupting the cleanup process. Federal officials are hoping to end the BP oil leak once and for all before peak hurricane season, which typically lasts from mid-August to late October.

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