BP Plc could start the final procedure to kill its ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico late next week despite storm-related delays, the top U.S. oil spill official said on Monday.
The procedure involves pumping mud and cement through a relief well, which has been drilled since May 2 to a spot close to the bottom of the stricken well.
The next thing that we need to do is get this well in the position where we can make the intercept and kill this well from the bottom, retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen told reporters at a briefing in Washington.
Allen also said that permanent kill would be preceded by a so-called static kill to plug the well near where it emerges from the sea bed. He said it could take place next Monday.
Last week BP had to suspend most operations at the spill site, including work on the relief well, as a storm bore down on the site, but it dispersed quickly and operations have resumed earlier than expected.
If BP's relief well intercepts the blown-out well by late next week as Allen projected, the kill could happen by mid-August, the date tentatively estimated before the storm blew through.
Allen said that by this Wednesday BP could start inserting the final length of pipe in the relief well to keep it stable, before drilling about another 100 feet into the blown-out well nearly 13,000 feet beneath the seabed, he said.
Once the pipe is in place, expected by Monday, the company will start the static kill and pump heavy drilling mud and cement into the well from the top, Allen said.
Five days later, or by August 7, the relief well can start to intercept the bottom of the well to pump in more mud and cement, he said.
A cap on top of the wellhead has shut in all oil flow since July 15, but Allen said: We're not going to declare any victory on this until that well is killed.
(Reporting by Kristen Hays, Editing by David Storey)