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'Top kill' stops gulf oil leak for now, official says

Officials are cautionary but say drilling fluid has blocked oil and gas temporarily. Engineers plan to begin pumping in cement and then will seal the well.

May 28, 2010|By Jim Tankersley, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Houma, La. — — Engineers have at least temporarily stopped the flow of oil and gas into the Gulf of Mexico from a gushing BP well, the federal government's top oil-spill commander, U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said Thursday morning.

The "top kill" effort, launched Wednesday afternoon by industry and government engineers, had pumped enough drilling fluid to block oil and gas spewing from the well, Allen said. The pressure from the well was very low, he said, but persisting. The top kill effort is not complete, officials caution.

Once engineers had reduced the well pressure to zero, they were to begin pumping cement into the hole to entomb the well. To help in that effort, he said, engineers also were pumping some debris into the blowout preventer at the top of the well.

As of early Thursday morning, neither government nor BP officials had declared the effort a success yet, pending the completion of the cementing and sealing of the well.

Allen said one ship that was pumping fluid into the well had run out of the fluid, or "mud," and that a second ship was on the way. He said he was encouraged by the progress.

"We'll get this under control," he said.

Allen also said that, later Thursday, an interagency team would release a revised estimate of how much oil had flowed from the well into the gulf before the "top kill" effort began. The Coast Guard had estimated the flow at 5,000 barrels a day, but independent estimates suggested it was much higher, perhaps tens of thousands of barrels a day.

jim.tankersley@latimes.com

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