BP’s much-anticipated effort to cap its undersea gusher in the Gulf of Mexico was temporarily suspended Thursday afternoon and was expected to resume later in the evening, a BP executive said.
“Nothing has actually gone wrong or unanticipated,” Doug Suttles, the company’s chief operating officer, told reporters. He said engineers have been monitoring the process for the past 24 hours, and determining adjustments to the mud-like fluid being injected into the line to counter to flow of oil.
He said the next step will be to restock the drilling fluid and restart in the evening.
The Gulf Coast had been holding its breath Thursday as oil company BP attempted to cap its undersea gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, a spill now estimated at twice the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Earlier in the day, hopes had been riding high on the procedure, which officials said was going according to plan.
BP’s effort to suppress the oil spill by pumping heavy drilling fluid into the breach could take another 24 to 48 hours to complete, Bob Dudley, its managing director, reported Thursday. But the “top kill” attempt has so far been successful, and the company planned to start pumping more fluid down a second line in hopes of clogging the underwater well, he said.
Enormous brown plumes of drilling “mud” billowed from the damaged well during the process, which Dudley called “a “titanic arm-wrestling match” a mile below the surface. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is leading the government’s response to the oil spill, said the work “is moving along as everyone had hoped.”
“They’re pumping mud into the well bore, and as long as mud is going down, hydrocarbons are not going up,” Allen told reporters Thursday afternoon. The work could take another night, he told reporters in Venice, near the mouth of the Mississippi River.
“I think we just need to let that run its course, and we will see what happens,” Allen said.
Stopping the leak took on even more urgency after government scientists released spill estimates that far exceed the previous 5,000-barrel-a-day number given by BP.