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Dublin: 20 °C Saturday 20 April, 2019
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It’s over! 106 days on, BP plugs the oil well

Almost. The ‘static kill’ of heavy mud worked: now it just needs cement.

The Helix Q4000, the central vessel in this picture, poured heavy oil onto the site of the oil leak.
Image: Gerald Herbert/AP

BP SAYS ITS much-ancitipated ‘static kill’ operation intended to seal the leak at the Gulf of Mexico oil well has been successful – meaning it can now press ahead with pouring cement on the leak and sealing it for good.

The procedure saw engineers pour huge quantities of thick, heavy mud onto the site of the leak of the underground Maconda well, which sprang after an explosion on board the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20.

The mud has now reached a “static condition”, with the oil pressure being controlled exactly as engineers had hoped. BP has called the news a “significant milestone“.

While the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico itself had been stopped for two weeks after BP fitted a containment cap – manufactured by Cameron International in Longford – to the leak, the new procedure has halted oil flow from the well entirely.

In a statement, BP said that the construction of a relief well was the ultimate final course of action, and construction of the first well – which began in May – is scheduled for completion within two weeks.

Once the relief wells have been completed, engineers will simply need to pour cement over the site of the explosion to seal the damage for good.

In a separate development, a new US government survey has determined that only 26% of the oil released from the spill is still present in a thick-enough slick to cause any problems.

Most of the oil seeped by the well, it said, is either present merely in a light coat on the ocean’s surface or in smaller chunks below the surface. In both cases, oil collections are being rapidly broken down.

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Gavan Reilly

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