BP attempts “top kill” to stop oil leak

Illustration of BP's "top kill" procedure. Click the image to view animation of the procedure on YouTube. (Courtesy DeepwaterHorizonResponse.com)

At approximately 1 p.m. (CDT) this afternoon, BP initiated a procedure referred to as a “top kill” in an attempt to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico resulting from the explosion and collapse of the Deepwater Horizon Response oil rig on April 20, 2010. BP officials estimate a 60-70% chance of success for this procedure and a time frame of 24-48 hours before we’ll know if the procedure worked.

According to BP, “the primary objective of the top kill process is to put heavy kill mud into the well so that it reduces the pressure and then the flow from the well. Once the kill mud is in the well and it’s shut down, then we follow up with cement to plug the leak.” (Click here for BP’s Top kill procedure website.)

The graphic on the right illustrates the procedure BP is attempting. Click the image to view animation of the procedure on YouTube.

Here is how BP described the procedure on their website earlier this week:
We have the Q4000 vessel at the surface which has a crane for lifting heavy equipment and is a central part of the surface equipment for this procedure. We also have a number of other vessels: the HOS Centerline, with Halliburton pumping equipment; the HOS Strongline; and the BJ Services Blue Dolphin and Halliburton Stim Star IV pumping boats.

A total of 50,000 barrels of mud will be on location to kill the well – far more than necessary, but we want to be prepared for anything. Pumping capacity on location is more than 30,000 hydraulic horsepower.

The mud will be pumped down the 6-5/8 inch drill pipe (pipe is connected to the Q4000), then through 3-inch hoses, which go through the manifold on the seafloor. Then the mud moves through another set of 3-inch hoses attached to the Deepwater Horizon BOP choke and kill lines.

While everyone hopes the “top kill” will be successful and stop the oil leak on the ocean floor, BP engineers, federal scientists and other experts continue to move forward with other strategies to contain the spill and stop the flow of oil in case it doesn’t work. BP will continue to drill two relief wells to permanently stop the leak.

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