HOUSTON—An attempt by BP PLC to deactivate the well that has spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico has been pushed back, company officials said Friday.
The “static kill” process previously scheduled to begin late Sunday or early Monday now is expected to start late Monday night or Tuesday, BP senior vice president Kent Wells said.
The operation—which entails pumping in drilling mud and cement—has been delayed because rocks fell into a relief well being drilled to intercept the one that in April unleashed the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The 40-foot layer of debris must be removed before pipe is inserted to strengthen the relief well.”It’s taking some time to clean that out,” said Steve Rinehart, a BP spokesman.
U.S. authorities say the relief well must be reinforced before BP can flood the neighboring damaged well with drilling mud. The wells are separated by a 4½-foot wall of rock, and authorities want to ensure the relief well can withstand pressure generated by the static kill. Once the static kill floods the blown-out well from the top, BP will attempt to flood it from below through the relief well, which will intercept the damaged well Aug. 11 or 12, Mr. Wells said.
Once the debris is cleaned out, “we’re ready to go,” Mr. Wells said.
In a teleconference call Friday, the head of the federal spill response, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said cleaning the debris “is not a huge problem.” It occurred when a drilling rig had to quickly evacuate last week ahead of tropical storm Bonnie.
BP said Friday that oil remained shut in at the damaged well, and pressure was building slowly, indicating the well was in good shape and no oil or gas was seeping out from the sides.