BP Tries New Tactic to Plug Oil Well

BP officials plan to try a new method to stop the flow of oil from a leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico. The plan — known as top kill — could go into effect by the end of the week. Laurie Johnson has more.

The latest proposed solution to plug the Deepwater Horizon well is called top kill.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles says they're going to try to inject heavy-weighted mud into the leaking

"If we pump at very high rates with heavy fluids we should be able to overcome the flow and it will go down the path of the flow is how it should work, if it's successful. And at some point the weight of those fluids, because these fluids are much heavier than oil and much heavier than water, they will actually stop the well from flowing."

If the method works, they'll top the mud with cement and seal the well permanently. An effort over the weekend to reduce the flow of oil was successful. BP inserted a thin tube into the leak and Suttles says that tube is now collecting about 1,000 barrels of oil a day.

"We'll be trying to increase that rate as we begin to what we call 'open the choke.' And we're doing that carefully and slowly so that we don't introduce water into the system and end up with a hydrate formation. This doesn't stop the flow, it just attempts to capture so that it doesn't come onto the sea."

Suttles says the top kill procedure won't take place until at least the end of the week, so they're trying to capture as
much of the leaking oil as possible until then.

BP estimates the company has spent more than $500 million so far on the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Top Kill

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...