NEW ORLEANS – The government official overseeing the Gulf oil spill response said Saturday he wants additional tests done before ordering BP to finish drilling a relief well that will help plug the runaway well for good.
Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen told reporters it could be late Monday or early Tuesday before officials know the results of those tests, which will be designed to minimize any potential risks with the final plugging procedure.
If Allen gives his final order to proceed with the relief well then, it could be next weekend before the relief well intercepts the blown-out well. Once that happens, engineers will pump in mud and cement to plug the well from below, a process known as the bottom kill.
Before that happens, Allen wants to know if pressure inside the well has to be decreased. He has instructed BP to provide an analysis to determine if the bottom kill could risk damaging the well further without some kind of pressure relief.
BP began drilling its primary relief well in early May to seal the ruptured well permanently. But about two weeks ago, around the time the company had done a successful static kill pumping mud and cement into the top of the well, executives began signaling that the bottom kill procedure might not be done.
But pressure tests reaffirmed the original plan.