Hours before President Obama’s scheduled press conference on government plans to more tightly regulate off-shore drilling, the government’s top oil spill commander announced engineers have nearly stopped the gusher of Louisiana crude in the Gulf of Mexico.
When pressure at the site of the major leak reaches zero, cement will be poured to cap the leak which has been gushing thousands of barrels of gas and oil since April 20 causing an ecological and economical disaster on the Gulf Coast.
Adm. Thad Allen of the Coast Guard said the “top kill” effort launched Wednesday afternoon appears to be successful in the tricky effort of submersible robots working on the Gulf floor 5,000 feet below the surface. He said engineers were also pumping the debris mixture of mud and rubber into the blowout preventer at the top of the well.
A glitch in the operation occurred during the night when one ship ran out of its supply of the plugging mixture. It was unclear how long the process was stalled for another ship to arrive and resume pumping.
Early results brought confidence to the BP and government engineers as they managed to reduce the pressure created 8,000 feet below the Gulf floor from thousands of pounds per square inch to almost zero.
“We’ll get this under control,” Allen said. At the hastily called press conference, the Coast Guard official said an interagency team would release a revised estimate of how much oil had flowed from the well into the Gulf waters.
Allen’s confidence is based on similar successful efforts of using the “top kill” approach to stop the fires at oil wells in Kuwait set ablaze by the Iraqis during the first Persian Gulf war. The difference is those fires were at ground level.
The Washington Post said Obama will announce a six-month ban on drilling new deepwater oil wells, quoting White House sources, and cancel plans for exploratory drilling and new lease sales off the coast of Alaska, as well as a proposed lease sale off the Virginia coast.
It will be the president’s first press conference since February.
Jerry Remmers worked 26 years in the newspaper business. His last 23 years was with the Evening Tribune in San Diego where assignments included reporter, assistant city editor, county and politics editor.